Social Anthropology : Bronislaw Malinowski

1554 WordsDec 13, 20167 Pages
Bronislaw Malinowski is arguably the most influential anthropologist of the 20th century, certainly for British social anthropology. Malinowski saw himself as effecting a revolution in anthropology by rejecting the evolutionary paradigm of his predecessors and introducing functionalism, whereby institutions satisfied human biological need, as the way to understand other cultures. I argue that his lasting legacy, however, is methodological rather than theoretical. Although not the first to conduct fieldwork, his lengthy stay among the Trobriand islanders during World War 1 enabled him to study their culture and cover a wide range of topics, from economics to sexuality. He contributed to ethnography and fieldwork by living with the people he studied, getting to know them personally, participating in their activities, and conducting his research in the field has since become known as ‘participant observation’. Malinowski’s most prominent contribution to ethnography and fieldwork was his method of research - participant observation, his own form of conducting fieldwork. Participant observation is the method giving researchers the ability to gain understanding of the activities of the people under study in the natural setting through observing and participating in those activities. It gives access to the context for development of sampling guidelines and interview guides (DeWalt & DeWalt, 2002). However, fieldwork involves "active looking, improving memory, informal interviewing,
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