Stephanie Oliveira 1
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
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,
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.
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
Discovery of local beliefs and perceptions
Problem-oriented research of many sorts
Multi-sited research that studies the various sites and systems in which
people participate. 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 phase—asking 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.
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. Stephanie Oliveira 3
Chapter 3: Doing Anthropology
Many ethnographers include the collection of life histories as an important
part of they research strategy.
Local Beliefs and Perceptions, and the Ethnographer’s.
One goal of ethnography is to discover local views, beliefs, and perceptions.
In the field, ethnographers typically combine two research strategies, the
emic and the etic.
An Emic approach investigates how local people think.
The term Cultural consultant, refers to individuals the ethnographer gets to
know in the field, the people who teach him or her about their culture, who
provide the emic perspective
The etic approach shifts the focus from local observations, categories,
explanations, and interpretations to those of the anthropologist. This
approach realizes that members of a culture often are too involved in what
they are doing to interpret their cultures impartially.
Operating etically, the ethnographer emphasizes what he/she notices and
The Evolution of Ethnography
Bronislaw Malinowski is the founder of ethnography. Malinowski did
salvage ethnography—the belief that the ethnographer’s job is to study and
record cultural diversity threatened by westernization.
Early ethnographic accounts were similar to earlier traveller and explorer
accounts in describing the writers discovery of unknown people and places.
The style that dominated classic ethnographies was ethnographic realism.
The writer’s goal was to present accurate, objective, scientific account of a
different way of life.
Malinowski’s ethnographies were guided by the assumption that aspects of
culture are linked and intertwined.
Today’s ethnographies tend to be less inclusive and holistic, focusing on
particular topics, such as kinship and religion.
According to Malinowski, a primary task fo the ethnographer is to grasp the
native’s point of view, his relation to life, to r