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Doing Cultural
What are the aims of ethnography and fieldwork?
How does an anthropologist do an ethnographic field study?
How has ethnography changed in the past century?
How do the personalities, social status, and culture of anthropologists affect their ethnographies?
What are the special opportunities and problems in doing anthropology in one’s own society?
What are some of the ethical problems raised by ethnography?
How do anthropologists use ethnographic data?

Kojo A. Dei (right), an anthropologist from Ghana, does ethnographic fieldwork among

African-American youth in a major city in the United States. The focus of Dei’s ethnog-

raphy is on how the cultural meanings of substance use and abuse within inner city

communities both support and diverge from those in the larger society. An essential

relationship in dei’s ethnographic fieldwork is with his key informants, among whom

are Prince Afrika.


based on fieldwork. Fieldwork is the first-
DOING CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY hand, intensive, systematic exploration of a
In attempting to understand human diversity, culture. Although fieldwork includes many
cultural anthropologists have developed par- techniques, such as structured and unstructured
ticular methodologies for gathering data and interviewing, mapping space, taking census
developing and testing theories. For cultural data, photographing and filming, using histor-
anthropology, the existing diversity of human ical archives, and recording life histories, the
cultures is the laboratory. The controlled lab- heart of anthropological fieldwork is partici-
oratory situation of the physical sciences is, pant-observation. Participant-observation
for both technical and ethical reasons, of little is the technique of gathering data on human
use in cultural anthropology. Anthropologists cultures by living among the people, observ-
can hardly go out and start a war somewhere ing their social interaction on an ongoing daily
to see the effect of warfare on family life. Nor basis, and participating as much as possible in
can they control in a laboratory all the factors their lives.This intensive field experience is the
involved in examining the impact of multina- methodological hallmark of cultural anthro-
tional corporations on villages in the Amazon pology.Typically, the field experience results in
rain forest. In place of the artificially controlled an ethnography, that is, an in-depth description
laboratory, anthropologists rely on the ethno- and analysis of a particular culture.
graphic method and cross-cultural comparison.
The ethnographic method is the gather-
ing and interpretation of information based on DOING FIELDWORK
intensive, first-hand study of a particular culture. The goal of fieldwork is to gather as much
The written report of this study is called an information as one can on a particular cultural
ethnography. In ethnology, or cross-cultural system, or on a particular aspect of a culture
comparison, the ethnographic data from dif- that is the focus of the fieldworker’s special
ferent societies are analyzed to build and test interest. The data are written up to present
hypotheses about social and cultural processes. as authentic and coherent a picture of the
Cultural anthropology encompasses a wide cultural system as possible. The holistic per-
range of activities and specialties: solitary spective of anthropology developed through
fieldwork in a remote location, delving into fieldwork. Only by living with people and
historical archives, testing hypotheses using sta- engaging in their activities over a long period
tistical correlations from many different soci- of time can we see culture as a system of in-
eties, administering a community health care terrelated patterns. Good fieldwork and
clinic, and working with indigenous peoples ethnography are based both on the field-
to exhibit their art in a museum. But all of these worker’s ability to see things from the other
diverse activities are based on ethnography, person’s point of view (the emic perspective)
which is not only the major source of anthro- and on the ability to see patterns, relationships,
pological data and theory but also an important and meanings that may not be consciously un-
part of most anthropologists’ experience. We derstood by a person in that culture (the etic
thus begin this chapter with a discussion of perspective).
ethnography and then turn to some of the ways Observation, participation, and interviewing
in which ethnographic data are used in cross- are all necessary in good fieldwork. The an-
cultural comparison. thropologist observes, listens, asks questions,
and attempts to find a way in which to partic-
ipate in the life of the society over an extended
Ethnography is the written description and Anthropology, like every other scientific dis-
analysis of the culture of a group of people cipline, must be concerned with the accuracy

Her contributions are recognized seemingly neutral task such as collecting by her picture on a United State’s stamp. Margaret Mead. but rather. not what actually came its defining characteristic (Stocking 1992). be recorded as soon as possible. Benedict worked tirelessly with helping them establish a network of social re. the earliest ethnogra- outsider has higher social status than the in. but most anthropologists also have a few key informants with whom they work. phers concentrated their studies on the small- formant.20 CHAPTER TWO of its data. he or she will begin to participate in cultural activities. widespread influence on how Americans think about pologist may just observe or perform some cultural diversity. and her student. and other human beings supply most of the data. the anthro. her mentor Franz Boas. ologies of racial superiority had no basis in science. was These key informants are essential not only for a best-seller in the United States when it was pub- explaining cultural patterns but also for intro. Anthropology is unique among the sciences in that a human being is the major re- search instrument. Franz Boas to demonstrate to Americans that ide- lationships. feel. partly by observation and partly by asking questions. It Anthropology began in the last quarter of the is not that informants deliberately lie (although nineteenth century as a comparative science. they may workers. Another reason . At least in the initial stages of research—and usually throughout the fieldwork—anthropologists have to rely to a great extent on informants as well as observa- tion for their data. when they are asked although its first practitioners were not field- about some aspect of their culture.The establishment of trust and co. sound fieldwork. however. the informant wants to look good in the developed for thousands of years outside the anthropologist’s eyes. Participation also forces orbit of European culture. Participation is the best way to understand FIELDWORK AND ETHNOGRAPHY: the difference between what people say they A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE do. Many people in a society may act as informants. One reason was the the researcher to think more deeply about cul. operation in these relationships is the basis for The work of Ruth Benedict. Anthropologists often develop deep rapport with their key informants and even life- time friendships (Grindal and Salamone 1995). Ruth Benedict’s major work. Key informants are people who have a deep knowledge of their culture and are will- ing to pass this knowledge on to the anthro- pologist. or think and what they actually do. they may). societies were disappearing under the assault of sight into culture beyond that learned by Western culture. For psychological or pragmatic rea. Within a short time. It is still widely used in college an- ducing anthropologists to the community and thropology courses. technologically simpler societies that had sons. lished in the 1930s. fieldwork and ethnography soon be- give the cultural ideal. had a deep and In the early stages of fieldwork. Patterns of Culture. scale. happens. Informants are people through whom the anthropologist learns about the culture. and so their cultures needed to observation alone. This is especially true when the For a number of reasons. fear that much of the traditional cultures of these turally correct behavior and thus sharpens in. genealogies (family trees) or taking a census.

went to India to help spread Krishna con- thropologist who carried out Vrindaban sciousness in the land where it originated. ISKCON’s presence in India affect both ested in religion and change in India. As part of their commitment to India their new religion. also called the Hare Krishna. and analyzing and writing India as a way of spreading the worship Hindu priests at that?” “What opinions up the results. “How did Indians react to foreigners locating informants. technologically complex. yet focused on a monk. and their vegetarian food. of the Hindu god Krishna. the International tees understood the symbols. tions. ferent. gathering and record. His move. it was that were very different from their own.The fol. who aimed members claim they have become. choosing the site. with their orange arching question: “How did a Western INDIA robes and shaved heads. Brooks was also aware of the most “What were the similarities and differ- they go about understanding cultures. attracting many con- AnEthnographic verts from the counterculture of the Field Study in 1960s. This necessary to look at societies outside the orbit interest continued to develop and. (ISKCON). brought Europeans into contact with cultures neous societies of the West. in the United States. by the of Western society in order to learn about the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. how number of specific questions.Through his to save Westerners from what he saw as was this paradox resolved?” “How did graduate study. The fol. laid the very diverse ways of being human.their materialism and atheism. Krishna worship was brought to the “Because Hindus believe that foreigners Brooks’s approach to the culture he was United States in the 1960s by an Indian cannot become Hindus. foundation for the emergence of anthropology. rituals. which in the large. Swami Bhaktivedanta. In this religion. are order to answer this larger question. visible representation of Indian religion ences in how foreigners and Indian devo- Although each fieldwork project is dif. field research on the impact of Brooks was fascinated by this process foreign Hare Krishnas in India. which would actually guide his re- ciety. ment. Brooks Brooks broke it down into smaller ques- worked not in an isolated. heteroge. there are certain common steps: Society for Krishna Consciousness meanings. In addition. well known in the United States. DOING CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 21 was that these cultures were sufficiently ho. cultural version of Hare Krishna fit itself cessions and festivals featuring drums and into the religious culture of India?” In cymbals. Indian Krishna followers interact?” shows what anthropologists actually do as search. their public pro. and his research was guided by an over- lowers of Hare Krishna. E T H N O G R A p h y States and Europe. European interest in cultural differences mogenous that patterns and processes of culture was enormously intensified by the fifteenth- were more easily perceived than was possible century expansion of European power. small-scale so. Brooks had become inter. many of these people C harles Brooks is an American an. but rather in a large town in the search.These questions included “In what very complex society of India.This ment was very successful in the United Hindu religious culture and the . and goals of Krishna worship?” choosing the problem. a religion that was originally Indian?” Like much contemporary fieldwork. as ISKCON studying was holistic. specific types of situations did foreign and lowing description of his fieldwork interest formed the background of his re. did Indians have about Westerners who devoted worship to Krishna is the main were in India to spread the word about CHOOSING THE PROBLEM path to religious or spiritual enlighten.The Hare Krishna movement began in who claimed they were Hindus—and ing the data.

out your notebook. the goal of the in- discover whether significant social inter. such as the availability of hous. Brooks Brooks chose as his residence a place dents. and also as a research scholar its importance for collecting data. “When month or so of their fieldwork to look we collect our data is related to the ques. many graduate students take an initial was in the way people create meanings waited until an encounter was over be- trip of several months to pick a research for their behavior through social inter. he developed a schematic flow- ban. and then return for the longer field. a guru told him. In order kept for each separate interaction. near a principal pilgrimage destination uations and observing behavior was not timate choice involves some practical where Brooks could observe from his difficult. chart into which he could fit his daily born and lived for part of his life. but pilgrims and the many cultural perfor. the content of their interac- temple there. when thanks to cheaper air. On one occasion early in his was to find a location where such inter. he also recorded his experiences in a foreign pilgrims and residents in Vrinda. This would allow him typical of Indians in Vrindaban but were PICKING THE RESEARCH SITE greater access to a variety of social situa. and transportation. This sitivity to the social world” he wished to observations. associate Brooks with any particular reli. act with others. not specifically identified with any par- Sometimes anthropologists have a par. Only interaction and record them in a consis- was the sacred pilgrimage town of Vrinda. iar and valid to pilgrims and town resi- encountered each other?” In sum. Both these roles were famil. action took place among the Indian and is to find a role through which to inter. Brooks defined his role more impressionistic way in a journal. And because he had learned matters. his main criterion COLLECTING AND RECORDING interaction. when Brooks was recording an action took place. Brooks decided that this would and history. recorders or take notes at the time of ob- interaction between foreign and Indian servation. rooftop rooms the constant movement of Hindi. He made an initial visit to interactions. you are ready to learn. Vrindaban. DATA research. Second to participant-observation in at ISKCON’s temple. and that the who had been certified by the Indian Brooks also used unstructured. come back with- over possible sites (this has changed some. it would not any particular faction. health care. In order to more effectively par- was interested in the subjective experience where many foreign and Indian people ticipate in the religious culture of the of individuals from two different cultures stay while they are on pilgrimage at town. ticular site in mind when they begin their tified with a particular religious sect or Because of the public nature of many of fieldwork. and its conclusion. place to stay. open- ISKCON temple attracted many Indian government to study Vrindaban’s culture ended interviews. Brooks wore pation in the same religion.” From that point he what today. In anthropology. The goal of these pilgrims. participant-observation was his and keep track of the many details of an trip). such interactions did occur. gaining entry to these sit- might suit their research interests. A different flowchart was town has many temples and religious sites understand (Brooks 1989:235). In addition. interview in a small notebook. fore writing it up. Brooks turned his attention lem. ban and whether any Indians worshipped as someone looking for personal devel. tions we hope our research will answer. the main language used for social ing.The way key informants.As a neutral site. this residence was the religious interactions Brooks wished only a general idea about a location that centrally located in the town and situated to understand. and Brooks to do this. Having found a suitable observations presented more of a prob- the questions they are interested in. When he saw that opment. he rarely the major consideration is whether the mances that were held in the adjacent needed an interpreter. Brooks’s initial choice for his research major method of collecting data. and dedicated to Krishna worship. Indian clothing and accessories that were gious faction. Because Charles Brooks’s main interest stopped taking notes on the spot and fares. tion. interaction in this part of India. the symbols used. Because the initial step of participation teraction. one of his Anthropologists generally use the first method is connected to theory. he also had to take account of each chart incorporated information on knew that ISKCON had also set up a his own role as an anthropologist in these the actors. in this way did Brooks feel he could de. But recording his site will allow the researchers to answer public courtyard.To help him remember site. Many anthropologists use tape Because Brooks wanted to study social to beginning the research project. interviews was to explore a particular . tions than if he had stayed at a place iden. tent way. but in other cases this hinders devotees to Krishna. without identifying himself with who had come together through partici. ticular religious sect. action. but in many cases they have temple.The ul. as in every science. In addition.22 CHAPTER TWO An Ethnographic Field Study in India (continued) Indian and Western Krishna followers who be an appropriate site for his fieldwork. where Krishna is said to have been velop the “intimate familiarity and sen.

This procession is in Russia.This was the to discover the castes and backgrounds of lief of many Indians that all Americans format he used for collecting life histo. phenomena. He found today who does not take a camera preset questions. very effective. but Brooks also allowed initially tried to use a written question. mants. Not only were written questionnaires of a particular symbolic object used Twenty-two of these life histories were foreign to Vrindaban culture. able in giving information about the sured informants of their confidentiality. ries. and thus not in religious practice. although Brooks as- interviews were with groups of infor. and to in India are working for the CIA.These were helpful in comparing background from which informants de. the pilgrims and town residents. a center for Krishna worship. such as the meaning interest in or knowledge of a subject. but. Many of his collected. the use of such formal documents dividual interviews people could speak Brooks also used random verbal surveys might be interpreted to confirm the be- about more private matters. Brooks used photographs in the conversations to develop on their naire to gather this kind of information several specific ways related to his re- own if an informant showed a particular but dropped that as counterproductive. Here Goswami is pictured with his wife and son during Holi. a festival where people sprinkle each other with colored water. search project: documenting the physical . a Brahmin priest and the owner of the pilgrim’s hostel where Brooks lived during his research. DOING CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 23 An Ethnographic Field Study in India (continued) (left) The Hare Krishna movement has spread throughout Europe and the United States. many people were nervous at the idea of the ways different individuals interpret a veloped their interpretations of religious writing down private information. and they were particularly valu. to the field. topic in depth. organized around the foreign devotees in Vrindaban. In ad- symbolic object or act. Charles Brooks’s ethnography is aimed at understanding how Western Hare Krishna devotees were integrated into the Indian city of Vrindaban. whereas in the in. dition.The individual interviews were taped learn their opinions and attitudes toward Hardly any anthropologist could be and more structured. (right) One of Brooks’s key informants was Govind Kishore Goswami.

statuses. was developed by “armchair nology and social institutions (such as the form anthropologists” who had not done fieldwork of family or type of religion). tural concepts and their own and others’ foreigners in Vrindaban. superseded by other social Critical Thinking Questions and ISKCON members are accorded le.The From Charles Brooks. interaction. Brooks’s data indicated that there is sig. which override conceptions about Indian culture and so. ing individual social position. for example. How might the social processes gitimacy as Krishna devotees by Indians. can be worship for Indian devotees of Krishna. or held irrelevant for determin. could be subordinated to which social reality is transformed into a bering and interpreting them. clothing and appearance as a way of pre. plete and even incorrect: that Brahmin documenting the different people who cepted in a Hindu religious and social status. religion the United States? Krishna worship has led to changes in the is of prime importance in determining 2. fact that foreigners can be considered India. In the nineteenth and ing the cultures they encountered on evolu. Like all good ethnography. of social organization in India. characterized by different stages of tech. If you were to study a situation meanings of the symbols involved in this individual social position and social in the United States like the one worship. outsiders—the foreigners—could be ac. including much of cultural evo- scales. early twentieth centuries. temple is accepted as a legitimate place of been viewed as a rigid hierarchy. As the study uncovered some ways that understandings of caste may be incom- such as the temples and pilgrimage sites. lutionary theory. European culture themselves and who based their theories on the was placed at the pinnacle and these other. anthropology. study of one town in India has a wider photographing the sites and participants tity. 1. often ethnocentric and unsystematic writings “primitive” societies were viewed as earlier of the amateurs.As people from dif- devotion.J. as it reveals the processes by of social interactions as an aid to remem. Twentieth-century anthropolo- pologists were typically amateurs—travelers. may be achieved as visited and lived in Vrindaban and their universe. and ing that in religious settings. Brahmins in India shows that our Press. it opened up new perceptions well as acquired by birth. which is normally essential in social application. as is true to the multicultural society of cultures in the religious complex of in many other parts of India. Brooks’s serving a record of cultural diversity. initially by plac.24 CHAPTER TWO An Ethnographic Field Study in India (continued) aspects of Vrindaban’s religious complex. 1989.: Princeton University tance of caste in social interaction. caste as indicators of rank and status. By the early twentieth century. interaction. deemphasized. much of anthropo- tionary scales of cultural development. which has popularly cultural identities. missionaries. The Hare Krishnas in ciety. Princeton. especially concerning the impor. The acceptance of foreigners ferent parts of the world increasingly ANALYZING AND INTERPRETING as Hindus and even Brahmins highlights come into contact with one another and THE DATA the complexity of Indian culture and participate in common social systems. In these logical theory. and colonial officers significance of the cultural differences between who had recorded their experiences in remote Europeans and other cultures. Thus caste. gists hoped that detailed ethnographies would . evaluations of the sincerity of a person’s meaningful universe. Anthropologists attempted to grapple with the explorers. forms of its own development. demonstrates its flexibility—its ability to they are forced to rethink traditional cul- nificant interaction between Indians and deal with novel and contradictory situa. N. caste iden. This is evidenced by the Brooks studied in India. revealed in Brooks’s study apply The interaction of people from different In the case of Vrindaban. what On a more theoretical level. fieldwork and The earliest observers of the societies later ethnography became the hallmarks of cultural studied by these nineteenth-century anthro. The ISKCON tions. corners of the world. Brooks’s importance of religious competence groups would you study and why? research challenges some popularly held and extreme devotion. indicat.

The major . and was instrumental in establishing ethnographic data on specific cultural systems. turned away from arm. neutral investigators could. flected this scientific view: The basis of the Western culture (Tedlock 1991). This goal was based on the their own. through names of Franz Boas in the United States and observation of behavior. demoralization. most complete and objective gathering of George Hunt. anthropological fieldwork took the twentieth century. the KWakiutl of the Northwest Coast of North thropology as a science would depend on the America in collaboration with his key informant. living among the people. assumptions of positivism. yet another turn. doing fieldwork and writing ethnog- raphy became the dominant activities identified with cultural anthropology. After World War I. Boas and Malinowski together set the high standards for fieldwork. and even more so after pology in the United States in the first half of World War II. feel. and participating in their lives. This empha. expanding fieldwork and chair anthropology and urged anthropologists ethnography to peasant and urban societies. to realize his vision of his world” ([1922] 1961:25). DOING CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 25 illuminate the richness and human satisfactions criterion of good ethnography that grew out of in a wide range of cultures and increase respect the work of Malinowski and Boas was that it among Europeans and North Americans for grasp the native point of view objectively and peoples whose lives were very different from without bias. that academically trained ethnographers began Positivism and empiricism emphasized the doing intensive fieldwork in distant places and possibility and desirability of observing and among peoples whose cultures were not only recording an objective reality. particularly those of the twentieth century. saw an essential goal of the ethnographer as “grasp[ing] the native’s point of view. to do more fieldwork before small non-Western cultures disappeared. It was particularly after the devasta. Malinowski. and behave as a member of another culture could enter into another cultural experience. Only an anthropologist who could learn to think. American anthropologist of the first half of the tive American cultures. the status of an. Boas himself produced an Anthropologist Franz Boas was the most influential enormous amount of ethnographic data on na. the primary influence in anthro. an empirical tion. He insisted that grasping the whole of a culture could be achieved only through fieldwork. With the publication of Malinowski’s unmatched ethnographies of the Trobriand Islands. the unique method- ology of cultural anthropology. Franz Boas. his relation to life. and disenchantment with scientific approach that dominated the nine- European civilization following World War I teenth and most of the twentieth centuries. For Boas. And this could be done only through field- work. observing their behavior firsthand. He carried out fieldwork among Pacific Northwest. ethnographic method was the confidence that sis on fieldwork is linked particularly with the trained. comprehend the ob- Bronislaw Malinowski in Europe. jective reality of a culture. ethnography as the hallmark of anthropology. whose fieldwork was carried out in the Trobriand Islands.Anthropology re- different from but often in striking contrast to.

and the usefulness of definitions of cul- many (if not most) of the ethnographic en. and there is an increasing scale cultures to larger systems. the fluenced by postmodernism. how they make them believable Since the 1970s. ethnogra- ologies as well as new theories about culture. as cultural and political biases of the ethnogra- ject of intense debate in anthropology (Lee pher. experienced reality. all contemporary ethnographies now include . where the threat. in attempt. seemingly iso. It must be kept in mind. ethnographer as the sole. pologist having a global perspective. or even most author- lated culture. This emphasis on ethnography twentieth-century fieldwork and ethnography as narrative also raises questions about how the and confidence in the possibilities of discover. with a the observer’s culture and status in society and new emphasis on the process of fieldwork it- that there is no single objective reality. depending on “observation of participation. are and objectivity in fieldwork. relationship of ethnography to anthropological tive to issues of history and power. In fact. selected and presented by the ethnographer. although almost ethnographer came from a much more pow. in a more focused and ex- intense reflection on why. and should be doing ethnography. Harding Hare Krishna of India. the connections more experimental ethnographies that use between cultures are so central that no society.” Contemporary one’s perspective. tion of other cultures. ethnography as a representation of culture. Postmodernism has caused anthropologists are. as well ing an objective reality have become the sub. we see very clearly and Myers 1994). have interpreted and represented other cultures. A basic assumption of postmod. or a fad. Indeed. shape the interpretation and representa- 1992a). ture itself (see Chapter Three). ing importance of postmodernism in anthro. pretation of field data. many of the assumptions of (Geertz 1988). a in colonial or neocolonial situations. a crisis. bias in the inter- doing. that is. multiple voices—of many people in a culture.26 CHAPTER TWO which were enmeshed in more complex re.This required some is a particularly important factor in under- changes in the way fieldwork was practiced as standing the ways in which anthropologists the study of these “part cultures” is not amen. consciously and uncon- CHANGING DIRECTIONS sciously. Abu-Lughod 1993. These debates result from the increas. ethnographers give authority to their IN ETHNOGRAPHY stories. that these multiple voices are still society and the importance of the anthro. how. as a result of postmodernism. the earlier trickle of interest in pology as well as in other social sciences and raising explicit questions about the methodol- humanities. erful culture than the ethnographic subject. units in complex societies led to new method. From a postmodern point of view. phies are stories. and with what plicit way. able to the same holistic perspective derived Postmodernism has thus challenged the from the study of a small-scale. ogy of participant-observation and the writing ernism is that all knowledge is influenced by of ethnography had turned into a flood. raising questions about subjectivity goals cultural anthropologists have done. The perspective that ethnography is just an- other story about reality has led to an interest in the ways in which. the accuracy of traditional Current perspectives in anthropology. Because theory. are more sensi. to write today’s global community.This shift to the study of smaller itative voice in presenting cultural descriptions. or truth. just like other stories about in particular about the relationships of small. can be among whom the ethnographer is only one— studied as if it existed in cultural isolation. no matter how seemingly remote. self—what Barbara Tedlock (1991:69) calls the but rather many partial truths. the diffusion of cultural patterns in our global however. By the 1990s. as in.These concerns counters of the twentieth century took place have been differently viewed as a challenge. this gional and national systems. projected audience for an ethnography. In the as a more accurate account of cultural reality example of Charles Brooks’s fieldwork on the (see Brown 1991.

and reporting of data. The examination of the We can see the effects of these changes in the degree to which culture and gender are pow- ethnography of what Westerners call the erful biases in ethnography and cultural theory . the formation of social classes. and interact. the total submission of 1968). from Ethnography of the Middle East raises partic- this perspective. noted. nance of the shame/honor dichotomy. segregation between the two sexes. 1993.With a few notable exceptions. describing norms and structures and been affected by these encounters. ularly important questions about ethnocentrism duction between the self and the other. such as the family view of others and how they personally inter. the Muslim religion.Western views of the Middle East. such as as central a place as more standard cultural de. economics. and the from the margins of anthropology to the cen.This often led to omitting the lifeblood Anthropology. the E. status. but ethnographer and the native informant both of these biases extend beyond Middle (Crapanzano 1980). as well as other disciplines. scientist. Significant work process included in ethnographies. the 1970s. and cultures shape their neglect of study of the places. personalities. Middle Eastern ter (although it is a center that continues to be realities are more complex than they have gen- shared by other interests and issues). such as E. only occasionally. indeed. including the ethnogra. historical colonization of the Middle East by Traditionally. Thus. the contemporary politics of anthropology. variety of cultural contexts. Hale 1989). in an introduction or women (symbolized by veiling). which the fieldwork was carried out. which has been shaped events and individuals. in any has been the overemphasis on Islam as the cul- central way. the analyses. tural determinant of gender roles and women’s rapher and informants affected the gathering. ethnog. or the workplace. experiential mysteriously moulds behavior ‘from above. political dynamics and ide- scriptions. where men and women meet act with “the other” to produce cultural data. DOING CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 27 some reflection about the conditions under Middle East. Evans-Pritchard’s classic The Nuer ([1940] domination of men. Participant-observation leads anthropologists For example. has in a culture.As one anthropologist (Waines 1982:652) interpretation. there is a new focus on the interaction between the self and the other—the ethnog- rapher and her or his informants—and the THE INFLUENCE OF FEMINIST kinds of communication they engage in as part ANTHROPOLOGY ON of the fieldwork experience and the written ETHNOGRAPHY ethnography. too much of the literature “assumes a This began to change in the 1960s with the priori the existence of a universal Islam which publication of some first-person. history. how interactions between ethnog. such concerns have moved ologies. become a dialogue. was to write like a 1978. by ethnocentric stereotypes about the domi- pher. Until in this ethnocentric view of the Middle East the 1970s. and the sharp a preface. resulted in neglect of other in which the observation of participation had factors in studying the Middle East. and the recent Gulf War (Said not in the fieldwork itself. at least in writing ethnography if the Middle East.’” accounts of fieldwork (Berreman 1962) and by These assumptions and generalizations have. were explicit accounts of the field. more ethnographies began to appear until quite recently. the and gender bias in cultural anthropology. a copro. particularly patterns but leaving out any mention of specific in the study of gender. overemphasis on separation and to reflect more consciously on how their own subordination in gender relations has led to a statuses. erally been portrayed by many anthropologists. Fieldwork and ethnography. few ethnographies considered. and Arab culture have raphy continues to be dominated by fairly been very significantly biased by historical en- straightforward cultural descriptions and counters between Islam and Christianity. the dominant requirement in Western powers. Eastern ethnography.

ent ways to incorporate the many voices that The description of whole cultures based on make up a culture. of these is the particular challenge of doing Gender bias had its effect not only on ethnography in one’s own society. When anthropologists study a culture differ- These new emphases in ethnography are one ent from their own. on the wall. and activities of women and also gists but particularly anthropologists studying to a new interest in men’s lives. the special insights that make fieldwork such Hammar 1989). whereas other. which are tral to fieldwork and can be the source of different from those of men (Keesing 1987. His advocacy for the people one is studying have descriptions of exchange among the Trobriand also come to be important goals. but political activism and example is the work of Malinowski himself. In their field studies some male activities grew out of a (largely uncon. anthropologists gift exchanges. thoughts. an omission rectified more than are increasingly reflecting on the work they do 50 years later by a woman whose restudy of the and its place in contemporary global society. where ethnographies continue to emphasize “objec- cultural notions of honor and shame severely tive” descriptions of a culture. and their own societies. of what it means to be human. from that have always characterized the history of the point of view of its members). much fieldwork was—and con. SPECIAL PROBLEMS IN nity—that is. This conclusion may be to see themselves not only as the instrument of theoretically misleading. tion. anthropologists still try to be the proverbial “fly scious) assumption that the most important cul. activities. As we see in Chapter Ten. ogy highlight the wide range of approaches tinues to be—done by men who have limited. the whole subject of gender and sexuality. anthropology. restrict the interactions of men and women more experimental ethnographies try in differ- who are not related (Abu-Lughod 1987). it is also a source of observation but also as the subject of observa- concern for those who believe that it helps per. Many (Hammar 1989) or in the Middle East. personal access to women’s lives. their main methodological more element of the diversity and dynamism task is to perceive cultures emically (that is. the an exciting but risky enterprise for cultural recognition of the androcentric bias of an. The demand for more self-conscious fieldwork anthropologists can conclude that cultural means that anthropologists need to be more homogeneity and integration are character. When the culture of a small society is based on infor- mation from just one segment of the commu. but also on the development of theories about culture. outsiders. STUDYING ONE’S OWN SOCIETY When such inaccurate descriptions accumulate. ory and method in contemporary anthropol- In the past. the accuracy of ethnographies. or native anthropologists.A good position of outsider. and women lead very separate lives and are its goals embrace those of a comparative science often hostile to each other. One women (Weiner 1976). cultural anthropologists bring to the question or even no. aware of their own reactions in the field and istic of such societies.28 CHAPTER TWO is a significant contribution of feminist anthro.The emphasis on more reflective field- thropology has led to a new concern with the work and ethnography affects all anthropolo- lives. Trobriand Islands focuses on exchanges among These reflections have raised new issues. In meeting the Islanders almost completely excluded women’s challenges of a changing world. Although .” observing and reporting from the tural activities were dominated by men. Anthropolog- This is particularly true in cultures where men ical studies focus on the “other” and ourselves. humanistic inquiry. Discussions and debates over the- pology (further discussed in Chapter Ten). These observations of the self emerge as petuate oppression of women by ignoring their part of the interaction with others that is cen- perspectives on their own culture. men—the culture appears to be CONTEMPORARY ETHNOGRAPHY much more homogeneous than it really is. as in New Guinea and also a unique.

un- studying their own cultures. pologist. with local power establishments. This would cast doubts on her respectability thropologist. On the one hand. both similar and different times emphasized the importance of these problems arise for cultural insiders. one where women’s public activities are limited and that rested partly on his being a native anthro- where respectability. an event that first irritated into projecting their own culturally determined and embarrassed her. anthropologists. is whether one should one is not and will never be. an urban ghetto in California (1978). corporate greed. as distin. than when confronting problematic overcome this suspicion by her own culturally situations such as child neglect. work of Barbara Myerhoff. An im- to overcome and had triumphed in many small portant finding of his research emphasized the ways over the disabilities of being old and poor contradictory demands on organizational lead- in North America was. honor. way to understand that condition. Myerhoff contrasted her earlier (1987:9) and hinder her fieldwork. was culturally appropriate. In that her father’s insistence that a “young. be a disinterested researcher or an advocate fieldwork was a glimpse into her possible future. But she later concluded feelings and perceptions on other peoples. but particularly poignant for act of imagination.This was all the more guished anthropologist Margaret Mead once true because Abu-Lughod had lived in the West noted. in other cultures. their fieldwork accounts sug. Delmos Jones. In addition. for her. She notes Another dilemma experienced by many that in the first case. DOING CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 29 training in anthropology is designed to increase 1988). sensitive behavior.” In the second case. Although connections with powerful outsiders to stifle Middle Eastern ethnography has substantially dissent within their organizations’ staff and improved through the work of native women membership. Anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod started awareness and perhaps ultimately overcome cul. and shame are cen. but she did not realize until or armed conflict in one’s own society. Jones acknowledged tral cultural values (Altorki and Fawzi El-Solh that he was given access to the leadership of the . Leaders some- In other cultures. who often had to compromise their mem- rare experience: that of being able to rehearse bers’ expectations in order to remain effective and contemplate her own future. may be and was subject to the negative stereotypes the easier when confronting problematic patterns Arabs have of the morals of Western women. a valuable and ers. Jones’s finding on dissension between the gest that the ethnographer’s insider/outsider leadership and the membership of these orga- position still poses special difficulties in cultures nizations presented him with a dilemma. among the conservative with her work among elderly Jewish people in Egyptian Bedouin whom she was studying. her fieldwork among the Bedouin accompa- tural bias. remaining objective. an American an. anthropologists married woman traveling alone on uncertain must try to maintain the social distance of the business” would be suspect and “have a hard outsider because it is all too easy to take for time persuading people of her respectability” granted what one knows. doing anthropology was “an anthropologists. she reflected on her fieldwork that a young Some of the problems and the rewards of woman alone would be seen to have been studying one’s own culture are found in the abandoned or alienated from her family. or even work with the Huichol of Northern Mexico make it impossible. Abu-Lughod had confidence that she could ticide. or relativist. even well-trained anthropologists slip nied by her father. Because in experienced some of these conflicts in study- North American culture the lives of the elderly ing the role of voluntary organizations in poor are often “invisible.” Her work was a personal American anthropologist in the United States. an African “little old Jewish lady. for the people one studies and whether it is as she knew that someday she would be a possible to be both.” Myerhoff ’s ethnogra. effecting political and social change in African phy of elderly Jewish people who had struggled American urban communities (1995). such as cannibalism or infan. a means for discovering what native anthropologists.

particular culture. As an insider.30 CHAPTER TWO particularly when the group being studied has been oppressed by the larger society. it also poses special dilemmas. We see it with new eyes. and many more anthropological studies are being carried out in North America and Europe by natives of those cultures. Jones asked himself whether he to understand the rules and meanings of other should omit reporting on the socially destruc. In this experience we are eventually able the leadership. both cultural insiders and cultural outsiders United States and returned to do fieldwork in a Korean peasant village. coined the term thrice born for what because they identified him with the leaders he called the ideal anthropological journey. the African American and also because he shared dimensions of native anthropology will become their concern about improving the position of increasingly important as subjects for reflection. he also had the advantage of much more difficult for Western anthropolo- social distance that allowed him to gain a fuller understanding of gists to limit themselves to studying “others. a distinguished other hand. it becomes culture of his fieldsite. First. (who had given permission for the study) to. African Americans in the United States. we are slogan by the leadership to silence dissent able to see it also with scientific objectivity among the organization members. which in- clude those of race and culture but also of gen- der and social class. for all anthropologists who share Delmos Jones’s view that the most important goal of research and ethnography is to demon- strate the ways in which social systems may exploit. our second birth is to move away from his finding of dissension between the group’s this familiar place to a far place to do our field- leadership and their membership palatable to work. (quoted in Myerhoff 1978). cultures. Being a native in one identity does not make one a native in all one’s identities (Narayan 1993. Despite our describe how racial unity could be used as a deep emotional attachment to its ways. Nor was Then. we are born into our original. It is also an experience completely con- for an anthropologist. On the On this subject. ward whom they were antagonistic. Srinivas. an individual has many identities. many of the members and staff of anthropologist from India who has studied his the organization were more suspicious of Jones own society. M. Furthermore. Reflecting on his research experience. our third birth. Cerroni Long 1995). Indeed. Srinivas’s ideal anthropological experience is Delmos Jones concluded that although being becoming more real for many anthropologists a cultural insider offers certain advantages today. But as an outsider. But whether it is Western or non-Western anthro- community organizations because he was pologists studying their own societies. goals: that of eventually examining our own . . face similar dilemmas. and repress human possibili- Soo Choi (center) is an anthropologist from Korea who studied in the ties. In tive aspect of the organization’s tension be. such as access to the sistent with one of anthropology’s original community. and the “exotic” becomes familiar. Choi had the advantage of knowing the language and As “exotic” cultures disappear.” both the ideals and realities of village culture. alienate. As he and other native anthropologists have pointed out. we again turn toward our na- tween its leadership and its members in the tive land and find that the familiar has become interest of racial unity or whether he should exotic. he noted that the very concept of a native an- thropologist is itself problematic. N.

also involve situations physically dangerous to The current concern with ethics in participant. scene of a violent and long-standing conflict cern within the profession. ernment (1990). as Sluka In trying to address these issues. Increasingly. anthropological studies are con- worker are acquiring the informed consent of ducted in locations where conflicts between the people to be studied.These dividuals and groups likely to be affected. the in counterinsurgency work. One those being studied. Ethical considerations come up in every field- work experience and anthropologists are always ETHNOGRAPHY required to reflect on the possible effects of AND THE DILEMMAS OF their research on those they study. “no search situations. skillful maneuvering. ties. he found that it is not anthropologist’s paramount responsibility is to necessary to become an active partisan. culture. anthropologists must do can indicate one’s feelings through sympath- everything within their power to protect the izing with grievances and problems. much more so than in the past.” becoming well acquainted with people that may become the basis of public opinion. Thus.” and in any case. and of bringing what ately involves working in collaboration with we learn back home. ethical dilemmas will increase. individually and collectively. their informants but also doing ethnography in a way that most accurately represents both ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS the culture and the collaborative dialogues IN FIELDWORK through which cultural description emerges. and as anthropologists involve them. ular support for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) Some serious transgressions of ethical conduct. and a conscious effort at impression manage- tribute to an “adequate definition of reality” ment. meeting well-respected public policy. think the anthropologist is on and act accord- ment of ethics in 1983. neutrals are allowed. as are useful techniques for building rapport and well as to the general public (AAA 1983). and sur. which holds that the ingly. sives and the identification of guerrillas. Anthropologists’ obligations to the public in. tions.Three main DANGEROUS SITUATIONS ethical principles that must guide the field. Fieldwork is based between Irish nationalists and the British gov- on trust. often agonizing ations call for greater reflection and perhaps ad- matter. research in the face of imminent danger. in order to con. anthropologists must not only and avoiding contacts with the police are also . social. In such tense. It also includes the responsibility to com.These may risk. such as the location of guns and explo- This includes the obligation to allow infor. DOING CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 31 cultures in the same objective way that we have carry on fieldwork in a manner that appropri- examined other cultures. planning. “walking physical. being mants to remain anonymous when they wish honest about research interests. the American points out. and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) such as the past participation of anthropologists in a Catholic-nationalist ghetto in Belfast. ditional training. or a resource in the politics of people who will vouch for the researcher. both using “foresight. protecting them from ethics and national law are common. and respecting their privacy and dignity. in the community. rounded by both professional codes and federal Anthropologist Jeffrey Sluka studied the pop- regulations (Murphy and Johannsen 1990). ongoing conflict selves in a continually expanding range of re. and psychological welfare of the softly” around issues that involve illegal activi- people and to honor their dignity and privacy. have caused con.These situ- observation is an important. Sluka’s suggestions for minimizing danger by clude a positive responsibility to speak out. people will define the side they Anthropological Association adopted a state. At the same time. and being flexible enough to redirect the municate the results of the research to the in. maintaining a to do so and not to exploit them for personal heightened awareness about dangerous situa- gain. anthropologists or their informants. situations in which emotions run high. avoiding danger in the field.

shoring up their claims to noble status. substance abuse field in the inner cities of the On her third day there. gion and the income from tourism. that guide (or should guide) all field re. however. ethnographers in these thropological accounts became an important re- special situations need to be meticulous about source. her. . or with tribal groups. the Toraja without make-up” routine violence used by drug dealers. This new conceptual frame- (Feinberg 1994). The manipulation of anthropologists by the tion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth local politics of culture is another of the centuries. anthropology today is well under. cultural authority. commoners. isolated tribal or village culture is no attending universities in greater numbers.32 CHAPTER TWO relevant for anthropologists working in the already quite sophisticated about ethnography. and court Sulawesi. and cul- viewed as useful to a society. ranking of aristocrats. In However. for a variety ethnographic settings against anthropologists of reasons. caine. such as questionnaires. an- locales. (Adams 1995). villages. villages to their workplaces in cities or collect- ments and the creation of cultural identities that ing genealogies that spread over countries or have been nearly effaced by Western impact even continents. Adams became a featured search and ethnography. attention. It may mean following informants from for the revitalization of traditional cultural ele. are exposed to the irrational both the good and the bad . kinds involve people breaking the law. event on tourist itineraries in the region and tour guides led their groups to the home of her host. . People from those societies are bounded.When Kathleen Adams car. social surveys. one of the Toraja told United States (Williams et al. unit of study is within a larger cultural pattern. Indeed. following the rules of professional conduct and and elite Toraja competed for anthropological ethics. interaction of these local units with larger. even selves. lower- Because ethnographic situations of these status people had begun to achieve some wealth. Ethnogra. including wage labor outside the re- who follow the rules Sluka suggests. . there has been little violence in these the last several decades. 1992). for example. the relevance of their own royal genealogies. “As an anthropologist. and slaves. you should write a phers studying the use and sale of crack co. or even whether it is a culturally legitimate unit tic” in the construction of national identities. Indonesia. both anthropological data and anthropologists contemporary ethnography more often uses may be incorporated as important sources of techniques other than participant-observation. the and the true . contrary to the situa. who As the aristocrats became more insecure about have every reason to hide their identities. ture are competing for validation as “authen. changed conditions of ethnography that rein- stood in many of the societies which anthro. In some cases.Whether some have become anthropologists themselves. economies. . the pro. . and longer a viable basis for ethnography. members of the societies studied almost all ethnographies take into account the resent anthropological representations of them. and Toraja society was traditionally based on a the possibility of being robbed or mugged. at all. not only validating his importance in the NEW ROLES FOR THE village but also bolstering the tourists’ experi- ETHNOGRAPHER ence of theToraja as a group sufficiently remote Another important issue affecting fieldwork to be studied by anthropologists. government documents. working in cities. book about the real Toraja identity and history. but in other cases ethnographic data are global social structures. and ethnography is that. liferation of guns and random shootings. she found her informants records. archival ried out her fieldwork among the Toraja of material. serving as a basis tures. [the] authentic and often violent behavior of crack users. In addition to expanding the research site. and activities. forces our recognition that the concept of a pologists study. work raises questions about how typical one’s In societies where different versions of a cul.

An entirely different kind of cross-cultural Under the influence of anthropologists such comparative method is the cross-cultural as Bronislaw Malinowski and Franz Boas. communication. much as Charles Brooks did tures. own cultural knowledge and cultural efforts to protect those rights are some ging out information from ethnographic products. as these searches sometimes include interviews any other way (Greaves 1995). The gathering of good ethnographic data through participant-observation is the hallmark of cultural anthropology and the foundation CROSS-CULTURAL SURVEY on which anthropological theories are built. or controlled cross-cultural com- aim of anthropological fieldwork was the de. how. contin. These bers of those societies financially or in fect fieldwork and ethnography. Concern over this issue is part of a what ethnographers can publish. Huge multinational pharma. many anthropologists go into the field using statistical correlations of culture traits with the aim of focusing on specific theo. value. The HRAF is an extensive fil- studying the same cultural pattern or social ing system containing ethnographic data institution in several cultures. but much of indigenous people to protect their property rights of indigenous peoples and the multinationals’ research relies on dig. knowledge and products are associated make in a changing world character- Once ethnographic and ethnobotanical with secret societies and practices and ized by a global economy and global data are published. for example. from the main ethnographically distinguished and the United States described in Chapter areas of the world: Africa. peoples exercise greater control over with native healers. who are most knowl. Recog- edgeable about medicinally effective larger issue of the cultural rights of nition of the cultural and intellectual plants in their environments. domain. . ethno. and multinational corporations graphic data have a new commercial or governments may use the data with no religious values. parison. based on a wide survey of many different cul- retical problems. Asia. the societies who are the source of the people over the appropriation of their ually search new natural habitats in hopes information or to remunerate the mem. about hundreds of societies (past and present) parative study of preschools in China.Today. However. Some vey method is the Human Relations Area of these field studies may be comparative. they are in the public their dissemination beyond their origi. the survey. these comparative approaches CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARISON still depend on intensive field studies of par- AND THE USES OF ticular societies and are well within the defin- ETHNOGRAPHIC DATA ition of the ethnographic method. The goal of the cross-cultural sur- scription of a total cultural pattern. legal obligation to get permission from The increasing concerns of indigenous ceutical companies. DOING CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 33 Five. Japan. native North G l o b a l i z a t i o n Ethnographic Data in the Global Economy nal cultural borders violates important I n today’s global economy. cultural knowledge will undoubtedly af- of finding new miracle drugs. ever.The data base for the cross-cultural sur- in his study of the Hare Krishna in India. as in the com. In many cases these areas of of the adaptations ethnography must publications. vey is to test generalizations about culture. File (HRAF).

Horton found a significant sta- thirty-nine of the forty societies in his sam. . and it also facilitates inquiry about cul. To confirm has shown that societies can tolerate with causality one needs to test the association of safety. devices. States. arranged tural features are cross-indexed in the HRAF. For example. and Oceania. twenty-four societies (60% of the sam. the cross-cultural survey is used ety. To test this hypothesis. Murdock ascertained that of insobriety. Based on indifferent to family stability and that societies ethnographic information about these soci. insecurity. anthropologist George Murdock. specific cultural patterns in a particular soci. He also in. are not native hypotheses. his find- survey that the American divorce rate was ings cannot confirm that subsistence insecurity well within the limits that “human experience causes high rates of insobriety. in the 1950s.34 CHAPTER TWO and South America. A major advan- vestigated the grounds for divorce and found tage of the method is that it encourages for- that the great majority of societies recognized mulating hypotheses. and quar. He then classified the same societies from the five major ethnographic divisions into those having high. barrenness or tions found have explanatory power. There are both advantages and disadvantages ple) had less stable marriages.” The most common bases for divorce a problem that arises is whether the correla- were incompatibility. whim. having high. With marriage through divorce. although Horton’s study found a statistically relsomeness. moderate. However. For many hypotheses he tested as part of his larger example. or low subsistence in- Using a random sample of eight societies security. adultery. Most often. with lower divorce rates usually have social eties from books and articles. and prohibitions against Thus it makes accessible information about adultery. to support marital stability. hundreds of cul. sterility. economic whether they indicate causality. significant correlation between economic in- Murdock concluded from his cross-cultural security and high rates of insobriety. Horton first classi- ology. For example. impotence or frigidity. marriages by parents. cruelty. One of the method (Ember and Ember 1996). he found that while fifteen societies erated from his theory. to test hypotheses about cultural correlations tural patterns that are found in association and causes. incapacity or nonsupport. fied societies in the HRAF for which there was riage instability in the United States compared information on drinking behavior into those with that of other cultures ([1950] 1996). which can then be tested only certain grounds as adequate and few by finding statistically significant correlations societies condoned divorce for a “mere between two or more cultural traits. or moderate rates of the world.” He also concluded that most societies. such as marriage payments. anthropologist Donald with each other. that is. to the cross-cultural survey. one of the important pioneers in this method. Horton used this method to test his theory that Thousands of different kinds of questions can the primary function of drinking alcohol is to be answered by the cross-cultural survey reduce anxiety (Horton 1943). many different features and to disprove alter- even those with high divorce rates. Horton considered his had more stable marriages than the United theory confirmed. used the HRAF to determine how mar. When Murdock significant statistical correlations found for surveyed his sample for the frequency of many of the other hypotheses that were gen- divorce. low. when divorce was theory was that drinking alcohol would be re- becoming more common in the United States lated to the level of anxiety in a society and that and the increasing divorce rate was causing a major source of anxiety would be economic some alarm. tistical correlation between high subsistence ple made provision for the termination of insecurity and high rates of insobriety.

here. Anthropol- ogists using the cross-cultural method have tried in different ways to overcome these prob- lems. cross-cultural comparisons will become an to have a high degree of other forms of vio. and many continue to find the method of substantial advantage.They note that the thousands of such cross-cultural surveys carried out have produced conclusions that support common. to make sure that the prominently associated with the cross-cultural behavior being studied has the same meaning in the compared cultures. note that an important func. On the question of violence. Such ethnography. Societies that more Area Files and the National Science Founda- often engage in warfare. assault. not all societies have data on all of the same cultural patterns. Because most of the ethnographic data in the HRAF were collected without HRAF cate- gories in mind. for example. and its measurement may be some- what arbitrary. possible solutions. making assumptions about cultural correlations based on only a few cultures (Ember and Ember 1996). and male socialization prac. cross. such as homicide. wife beating.The use of cross-cultural surveys and the capital punishment. Insobriety. Because the cross-cultural sur- vey method uses cultural traits taken out of context. are also important in istic of the sciences and the most scientific of putting contemporary social problems in cross. Still another problem is that for many societies. . would be constructed differently in different cultures. Undoubtedly. The survey method. however. is quite different than drinking for social reasons in a neighborhood vents generalizing about human nature or bar in the United States. the humanities. as more anthropologists learn cultural comparative studies confirm that soci. Ethnographic data on drinking behavior can be useful in cross-cultural com- Carol and Melvin Ember. work. to use the HRAF through the annual Summer eties that have a lot of violence in one aspect Institutes in Comparative Anthropological of culture tend to have a lot of violence Research. HRAF data base emphasizes the need for good tices that permit or encourage aggression. ritual of drinking kava which occurs in many Pacific Islands. information on the particular cultural trait the investigator wants to measure may be missing from the ethnographic source. sponsored by the Human Relations throughout the culture. also tend tion. for example. as illustrated tion of the cross-cultural survey is that it pre. These comparisons require caution. it is not always clear that a trait has the same meaning in the different societies in which it is found. like George Murdock’s study on firms anthropology’s status as the most human- divorce noted earlier. cultural perspective. increasingly important part of anthropologists’ lence. DOING CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 35 Another problem with the cross-cultural sur- vey is that there is often ambiguity about what constitutes a particular cultural trait and how to measure it. The use of both methods con- studies. providing new insights into sense expectations and also hold some surprises. for example. anthropologists parisons.

: Smithsonian Institution. ethical. HRAF in cross-cultural surveys in order to test Arab Women in the Field: Studying Your Own Society. An essential ability in fieldwork is to see another ethnology culture from the point of view of members of that fieldwork culture.The major technique in fieldwork is participant-observation. 5. The Hold Life Has: Coco and nity. each of whom is socially 8. A sen- This may require extra caution when the research sitive and beautifully written account of anthro- setting is a site of ongoing violent conflict. ethnographic data. such as often humorous style makes this a good source whether to expose aspects of the culture that may of the whys and hows of ethnography for the in- be unfavorably received by outsiders. and anonymity of the people one Cultural Identity in an Andean Community. . The main method of cultural anthropology is tural knowledge and products. first-hand study of a particular society through fieldwork. may also use the rich ethnographic data of the Altorki. positivism work experience and raise questions about postmodernism how anthropologists’ status and culture influence random sample their perceptions and representations of other cultures. is increasingly being of doing fieldwork as an Arab woman in a range used for commercial purposes. In addition to ethnography. collecting and recording data. In the global economy and with the global reach part Westerner and part Arab. controlled cross-cultural comparison trates the steps in doing fieldwork: choosing a cross-cultural survey research problem. anthropologists agricultural community. An ethnography is the written account of a cul. D.Although Agar. This has led to of Middle Eastern societies. particularly sonal. to find ways to protect cul- 1. ethnography 3. anthropological accounts of participant-observation other cultures increasingly describe the field. Soraya. 1996. Doing fieldwork in the anthropologist’s own culture presents similar and different problems SUGGESTED READINGS from doing fieldwork in another culture. practical. New York: Academic Press.C. write about the per- of information. or the intensive. Six processes. access and rapport in some cases.: Syracuse University Press. The Professional Stranger: An native anthropologists may have advantages of Informal Introduction to Ethnography. and Camillia Fawzi El-Solh. Washington. Allen. 1989. Charles Brooks’s field experience in India illus. 6. pological fieldwork in a Latin American 7. eds. N. Michael. troductory student. hypotheses about human behavior and cultural Syracuse. KEY TERMS ture based on fieldwork. Bronislaw Malinowski and Franz Boas genealogy were two twentieth-century anthropologists Human Relations Area File (HRAF) whose meticulous fieldwork set a standard for the informant profession. women anthropologists. picking a research site. Second edition. Catherine.Y. they also experi. and ethnographic method analyzing and interpreting the data. Agar’s informal and ence special burdens more intensely.36 CHAPTER TWO greater activism by anthropologists. ethnography. androcentric bias 2. studies and not putting them at risk in any way. working with SUMMARY indigenous peoples. and intellectual problems from indigenous cultures. With the postmodern emphasis on multiple voices native anthropologist in ethnography. 1988. Anthropological ethics require protecting the dig. finding empirical science key informants. key informant 4. privacy.

Native Ethnography:A Mexican Indian Describes among the police in England. Malcolm.Alma. you will find a variety of resources for learning mant become the vehicles for learning about one anthropology. was guided. An anthology of original and often academics/ss/faculty/tamakoshil/index. Walnut Creek. West Africa. Storytellers. She also includes many anthropological fieldwork among the Beng of quotations from other anthropologists. which describes his culture shock as http://lucy. Another good place to begin to get an idea of Narayan. written in his own lan.ukc. Parallel Worlds: she returned.. Do you want to get a feeling for guage. The Naked Anthropologist: out anthropologist Laura Zimmer Tales from Around the World.html. Calif. You can find delightful book whose rich portraits of the an. Kirin. and her experiences after Gottlieb. Young. Dr. Russell H. . well as some of the pitfalls of planned change 1995. 1991. New full of great color photographs of New Guinea. Philip R.html. His Culture. and annotated by the what doing a fieldwork-based pro- American Calif. Oxford.: Tamakoshi’s Web site England: Clarendon and fun to look at. translated. In the Sticks: Cultural Identity in and brief pictorial exhibits that are informative a Rural Police Force. ject in anthropology is like? Check DeVita.ukc.Tamakoshi provides good personal discus- ternating chapters by anthropologist Gottlieb and sions of establishing Wadsworth. ed. Belmont.A compelling ethnography with al. One particularly useful part Press. and Scoundrels: what cultural anthropologists do is at the Center Folk Narrative in Hindu Religious Teaching. Saints. Papua New Guinea.. 1989. DOING CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 37 Bernard. and Philip Graham. their home page at http://lucy.truman. York: Crown. culture shock. amusing articles by anthropologists who have been Professor Tamakoshi’s site covers information on taught some important lessons by their informants planning her fieldwork. for Social Anthropology and Computing of the Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. and her fiction writer husband. A fascinating ethnography by an anthro.You can access this at police force. INTERNET EXERCISES raphy of his own people. and Jesus Salinas Pedraza. stories about anthropologists.These include the texts of numer- important kind of religious experience in India.An innovative ethnography based on native researcher collaboration in which Salinas’s ethnog. A University of Kent at Canterbury. ous ethnographies. of the site is the database of basic information on pologist who spent over 30 years on the English many different cultures. There thropologist and the swami who is her key infor.: Altamira Press (Sage). which emerged from writing field notes.The site is well constructed and An Anthropologist and a Writer Encounter Africa. her experiences in in the process of doing fieldwork.