Essay on Reflexivity

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Reflexivity

When an ethnographer examines a group of people, she is influenced by her position and understanding of her own culture. Before an ethnographer even begins her research, her opinion is effecting the process of selecting a topic. For instance, Anthropology’s most commonly known researcher Bronslow Malinowsky wrote the Argonauts of the Western Pacific. He did not choose to study a culture similar to his own because of the interest he had in the ‘exotic’. His preferences told him to pick a more remote group of people, the Trobriand Islanders. There has been a history of choosing the opposite of the Anthropologists own culture. Reflexivity is the use of one’s experiences to examine a culture. It is my argument that
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Resaldo realizes that by including personal events he may come out sounding less professional. However, I feel it is more professional [especially to this discipline] to be honest about how one concludes regarding an aspect of culture. His acknowledgment of the natural emotions that surround rituals gives the reader a more comprehensive and complete account of events. To leave out such emotions from ethnographies is to “ . . . remove potentially key variables from their explanations (p.12).” I feel it is worth the use of personal events to base explanations on –even when the risk looked down upon is prevalent. Ruth Behar supports this idea in The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology that Breaks Your Heart.

Behar addresses the critics of reflexive anthropology who think that because personal experience cannot always be believed or seen as factual (Behar: p.169). Scott Michaelson and David Johnson are her two targets in the speech she has included in her writings. She argues that though Michaelson and Johnson impose their critique of Resaldo’s vulnerability and discussing his feelings regarding his wife’s death, they never make themselves vulnerable (p.169). The vulnerable state that Resaldo put himself in by telling the way in which his wife died and how it effected him does not
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