Where does Malinowski’s conceptualization of participant-observation sit in the landscape of modern anthropological fieldwork?
A primary objective of the modern ethnographer is to glean insights into the ways people relate to and interact with one another and the world around them. Through participant-observation, Malinowski (1922) offered a valuable tool with which to uncover these insights and understandings, the ethnographer. The ethnographer as research tool has become the basis of much modern anthropological research. As a method, it was a radical departure from the typical approach to fieldwork used in Malinowski’s time which involved techniques that kept the ethnographer distanced and distinct from those they studied (McGee …show more content…
It was only through a ‘process of reengagement’ that she was able to again locate herself within the group and successfully analyze her data, a process at odds with Malinowski’s second imperative (Krieger, 1996, p 183). Thus, Malinowski’s ‘ethnographer as tool’ is still a guiding principle of anthropological fieldwork. However, the location and position of this tool with relation to the community under study has evolved from Malinowski’s limited perception of its scope. To simply be positioned ‘right among the natives’ (Malinowski, 1922, p. 6) does not automatically provide the ethnographer with an insider’s view. It is this realization that has shaped and is still shaping the way fieldwork in modern anthropology is approached.
The focus of anthropology can also been seen to have evolved in terms of the premises upon which Malinowski based his anticipated outcomes of research when compared to those of modern ethnographers. The primary purpose of anthropological research identified by Malinowski was that of understanding tribal life objectively and scientifically, in terms of systems of ‘social machinery’ and presenting this for consumption to a Western audience (Malinowski, 1922, p. 109; McGee & Warms, 2008). This raises two issues apparent in modern anthropology. First, the relevance, usefulness and problematic nature of a purely objective paradigm within anthropology; and second, the motivations underlying anthropological research and
Click here to unlock this and over one million essaysGet Access
After reading the novel Nest in the Wind: Adventures in Anthropology on a Tropical Island, written by Martha C. Ward, I learned about a culture on an island that is much different but similar in many ways to ours. The Climate of the Island was tropical with heavy rainfall. The Island was known as a “tropical paradise”. Ward a female Anthropologist went to this Island to study its inhabitants . Some area she focus on was Family, Religion, sex, tradition, economics, politics ,medicine, death, resources and daily activities . Ward approach to getting this information as accurate as possible was to live among the Pohnpeians as . She got involved in their culture and community. She even , though unwanted gained rank in their society. Her and
James P. Spradley (1979) described the insider approach to understanding culture as "a quiet revolution" among the social sciences (p. iii). Cultural anthropologists, however, have long emphasized the importance of the ethnographic method, an approach to understanding a different culture through participation, observation, the use of key informants, and interviews. Cultural anthropologists have employed the ethnographic method in an attempt to surmount several formidable cultural questions: How can one understand another's culture? How can culture be qualitatively and quantitatively assessed? What aspects of a culture make it unique and which connect it to other cultures? If
It has flawlessly displayed the coalescence of the principles of archaeology, linguistics, forensic science and ethnography, the use of the holistic approach of anthropology (Parkin & Ulijaszek, 2007) to reveal the violence and inhumanity brought by global inequality, without euphemizing the real events. The message the anthropologist Jason De León has successfully resonated with his readers, serving as a thought-provoking eye opener of the current socio-political
During the study, the renowned anthropologist uses the local lingua franca “Neo-Melanesian” to collect his data from the Imbonggu villages. At first, the Wormsley finds himself as an object of competition as different communities wanted to stay with him. The men thought that Wormsley had come to collect the "head tax”, one of the renowned colonial payments that were subjected to men based on the number of women. In these communities, the author observes the culture of both men and women to collect his data. He notes how men are engaged in war, religion and politics (Wormsley, 1993). Women, on the other
This study examines Horace Miner’s essay “Body Rituals Among the Nacirema. While using the participant observation approach, he gives us a new perspective on the daily behaviors within this group of people. Exploring ethnocentrism and how we view cultures outside of our own.
As we begin to go on an excursion through literature, it is important to understand the concept of what an ethnography is. Ethnography is known to be a descriptive type of work that analyzes culture and customs of individual people. James Clifford has implemented this work into his studies and has influenced many others to do the same. I saw through the books I have read, ethnography makes these books become vivacious for a reader.
Nathan faced ethical questions in approaching this research project using an undercover method of observation: Did she lie to people? Was permission given by the university? How to handle the Research Board? Could she record her findings or conversations since she did not disclose her identity? Can an anthropologist really go “undercover”? These are a few of the concerns and criticisms the author faced during this project.
Ethnographic methodology provides rich and complex data (Brownlow, 2012). In the ethnographic approach a researcher joined the studied group in their natural environment, stayed as a part
In Barbara Anderson’s book, First Fieldwork: The Misadventures of an Anthropologist, she discusses how as a graduate student she went to a small Danish town called Taarnby to do an ethnographic study of the community. When she went to Denmark, she took her family with her: Thor her husband and Katie her daughter. This book talks about the many difficulties and problems that an untried and inexperienced anthropologist can face, even though some of it is “improved upon”.
“Ancestral lines” by John Barker is a book about the anthropologist’s experience in the Uiaku village located in Papua New Guinea. In the first chapter, Barker tells his readers briefly about him and his education, his and his wife’s experience with the Maisin community, and talks in great detail about the Maisin and their culture in the Uiaku village.
Anthropology, as a discipline in the field of human sciences, is based on certain ethical principles to guide its practitioners through their research. This creates a stable framework on which to start any research project. Avoiding deviation, however, can be complicated. Anthropologists have a responsibility to their field,
Boas’ reliance on empirical data to formulate theories underscores Kuhn’s central idea that paradigms are only changed through examination of new data. As data on cultures preceding Boas was slim at best, it is not hard to see how Boas could acquire data contrary to the existing viewpoint. This data collection itself was a new theory, the new invention required. Kuhnian thought states that preparadigmatic schools emphasize the collection of the facts, as Boas was emphasizing. Crisis within the paradigm is witnessed by the competition between the schools of thought. Emerging from this crisis is Boasian anthropology, with its reliance on empirical data as the basis for study. This data collection is subdivided into the four subfields Boas saw as a requirement for this new field. The four-field approach emerges as the dominant force in anthropology. With this approach the community changes its view of the field, and produces new methods and goals. These methods and goals have been used as a professional consensus in anthropology since the Boasian transformation.
Since the emergence of anthropology in the late 1800’s, the customs and methods of this academic discipline have been altered in many ways. It is assumed that in the early years of anthropology, theorists relied on travelers in order to articulate their theories (Dahl 2017). This practice is known as armchair anthropology and involves creating theories without any fieldwork. Some examples of famous armchair anthropologists include Edward Burnett Tylor and James Frazer. The work of both theorists involved no travelling or conducting of fieldwork. Early anthropology focused on primitive cultures and how societies transformed from being barbaric to civilized. In modern days, anthropology is discovering new topics to study every day and the information relies a great amount on fieldwork and lab work conducted by anthropologists to support their findings. As some of the early methods of anthropology continue to be used by anthropology, more are being developed in order to produce more efficient research and theories.