Essay about Etic vs. Emic Approaches in Anthropology

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Adrian Simons-Wilson

Working in the field as a cultural anthropologist requires participant observation, interviews, and observation. (Knight) The etic and emic-orientated styles are two different styles that applied anthropologists use in their field work. The etic-orientated approach is a perspective that in ethnography uses concepts and categories for the anthropologists culture to describe another culture. (Ferraro/Andretta) The emic-orientated approach is a viewpoint in ethnography that uses the concepts and categories that are relevant and meaningful to the culture under analysis (Ferraro/Andreatta). There has been much debate on whether the etic or emic-orientated techniques of research should be used in the field. Cultural
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One will need to look to the humanities to understand the culture. This turn to the humanities is an emic technique used in the field.

Emic-orientated investigations succeed because it engages applied anthropologists to live with and live like the people of the culture they are studying. It becomes a personal study under the emic practice. Being personally involved allows one to connect to the culture and why that culture thinks and performs a certain way.

Emic-orientated research fails because it gets too personal with its subjects. This can cause one to stop looking at its subjects as research to be analyzed but as people, which they are, to just befriend and not critically think about. One may begin sympathizing with those within the culture and not be able to learn about the culture from an outsider’s point of view. It would be difficult from an emic view to understand why a family may be dehydrated if they are blaming their religious beliefs when they are in fact dehydrated because it has not rained for a month. Religion in this case would be an unreasonable rationale.

You cannot understand a culture from just an etic approach; you need emic research methods as well in order to get accurate information to help you understand that culture. Etic and emic investigations both have their pros and cons, and together they compliment and support each other. The subsequent will look at readings that give examples of etic and emic studies.

“Eating Christmas in
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