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Chapter 3

ANTH 1150 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Ethnography, Human Terrain System, Rapidfire

Course Code
ANTH 1150
Hank Davis

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Stephanie Oliveira
Chapter 3: Doing Anthropology
Despite globalization, the cultural diversity under anthropological scrutiny
right now may be as great as ever before, because the anthropological
universe has expanded to modern nations.
Anthropology originated in non-Western, nonindustrial societies. Its
research techniques were developed to deal with small populations.
Research Methods in Cultural Anthropology.
Early studies of sociology, such as Emile Durkheim, were among the
founders of both sociology and anthropology. Durkheim studied the religions
of Native Australians as well as mass phenomena, such as suicide rates, in
modern nations.
Difference between sociology and anthropology? Sociologists focused on the
industrial west; anthropologists, on nonindustrial societies.
Traditional ethnographers studied small, non-literate populations and relied
on ethnographic methods appropriate to that context.
Ethnography: Anthropology’s Distinctive Strategy
Early ethnographers lived in small-scale, relatively isolated societies with
simple technologies and economies.
Ethnography emerged as a research strategy in societies with greater
cultural uniformity and less social differentiation than are found in large,
modern nations.
Traditionally, ethnographers have tried to understand the whole of a
particular culture. To pursue this goal, ethnographers adopt a free-ranging
strategy for gathering information.
Ethnography provides a foundation for generalizations about human
behavior and social life.
Ethnographic Techniques
Direct, firsthand observation of behavior.
Conversation with varying degrees of formality
The genealogical method
Detailed work with key consultants, or informants, about particular areas of
community life.
In-Depth interviewing
Discovery of local beliefs and perceptions
Problem-oriented research of many sorts
Longitudinal research
Team research
Multi-sited research that studies the various sites and systems in which
people participate.

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Observation and Participant Observation
Staying a bit more than a year in the field allows the ethnographer to repeat
the season of his or her arrival, when certain events and processes may have
been missed because of initial unfamiliarity and culture shock.
Many ethnographers record their impressions in a personal diary so that
later it will be easier to point out some of the basic aspects of cultural
These patterns are part of what Bronislaw Malinowski called “the
imponderabilia of native life and of typical behavior.” These features of culture
are so fundamental that natives take them for granted.
Ethnographers strive to establish rapport, a good, friendly working
relationship based on personal contact, with their hosts.
Participant Observation- taking part in a community life as we study it.
Conversation, Interviewing and Interview Schedules.
Ethnographers constantly talk to people and ask questions.
Stages of in learning a field language:
1. Naming phaseasking name after name of the objects around us.
2. Later, we are able to pose more complex questions and understand
3. We eventually become able to comprehend rapid-fire public
discussions and group conversations.
Survey research involves sampling.
Interview Schedule- the ethnographer talks face-to-face with people, asks
questions, and writes down the answers.
Only gives a basis for assessing patterns and exceptions in village life.
The Genealogical Method
Is a well-established ethnographic technique. Early ethnographers developed
notation and symbols to deal with kinship, descent, and marriage. Genealogy
is a prominent building block in the social organization of nonindustrial
In such societies, anthropologists need to collect genealogical data to
understand current social relations and to reconstruct history.
Key Cultural Consultants
Every community has people who by accident, experience, talent or training
can provide the most complete or useful information about particular aspects
of life. These people are Key consultants.
Life Histories.
Anthropologists develop likes and dislikes in the field as we do at home.
Often, when we find someone unusually interesting, we collect his or her life
This provides a more intimate and personal cultural portrait than would be
possible otherwise.
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