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This chapter introduces students to the field methods and research
methods employed by cultural anthropologists. It pays special
attention to the field methods of ethnographers, the history of
ethnography and the ethics that apply to cultural anthropologists.
Ethics and Methods in Cultural
 The AAA Code of Ethics states that
anthropologists have ethical obligations to their
scholarly field, to the wider society and culture, to
the human species, other species, and the
 To work in a host country and community,
researchers must obtain the informed consent
from all affected parties.
 Before the research begins, people should be told
about the purpose, nature, and procedures of the
 Also, people should be told of the potential costs
and benefits of the research before the project
 Ethnography Is the Firsthand Personal
Study of a Local Cultural Setting
 Ethnographers try to understand the
whole of a particular culture, not just
fragments (e.g., the economy).
 An extended period of time living with
the group
 Key cultural consultants
Life Histories
 Life histories
 intimate and personal collections of a
lifetime of experiences from certain
members of the community being
 Life histories reveal how specific
people perceive, react to, and
contribute to changes that affect
their lives.
Observation and
Participant Observation
 “Participant observation,” as
practiced by ethnographers, involves
the researcher taking part in the
activities being observed.
 Ethnographers do not isolate
variables or attempt to manipulate
the outcome of events they are
Interviewing, and
Interview Schedules
 Ethnographic interviews range in
 undirected conversation
 open-ended interviews focusing on
specific topics
 formal interviews using a
predetermined schedule of questions.
The Genealogical Method
 Early anthropologists identified types
of relatedness as being the
fundamental organizing principles of
nonindustrial societies.
 Such as:
 Kinship
 Descent
 Marriage
Emic vs. Etic
 An emic (native-oriented) approach
investigates how natives think, categorize
the world, express thoughts, and interpret
 An etic (science-oriented) approach
emphasizes the categories,
interpretations, and features that the
anthropologist considers important.
Bronislaw Malinowski
 Bronislaw Malinowski is generally
considered the father of ethnography.
 He did salvage ethnography, recording
cultural diversity that was threatened
by westernization.
 His ethnographies were scientific
accounts of unknown people and
Bronislaw Malinowski
 Malinowski believed that all aspects of
culture were linked and intertwined,
making it impossible to write about just
one cultural feature without discussing
how it relates to others.
 Malinowski argued that understanding
the emic perspective, the native’s point
of view, was the primary goal of
Ethnographic realism
 The writer’s goal was to produce an
accurate, objective, scientific account of
the study community.
 The writer’s authority was rooted in his or
her personal research experience with
that community.
Evolution of Ethnography
 Interpretive anthropologists believe that
ethnographers should describe and
interpret that which is meaningful to the
 Experimental anthropologists, like
Marcus and Fischer, have begun to
question the traditional goals, methods,
and styles of ethnographic realism and
salvage ethnography.
Ethnographic Present
 The early ethnographies were often
written in the ethnographic present, a
romanticized timelessness before
westernization, which gave the
ethnographies an eternal, unchanging
 Ethnographers today recognize that
cultures constantly change and that this
quality must be represented in the
 Ethnographers typically address a
specific problem or set of problems within
the context of broader depictions of
 Variables with the most significant
relationship to the problem being
addressed are given priority in the
Longitudinal Research
 Longitudinal research is the long-term
study of a community, region, society, or
culture based on a series of repeated
 Longitudinal research study has become
increasingly common among
ethnographic studies, as repeat visits to
field sites have become easier.
Survey Research
 Anthropologists working in largescale societies are increasingly
using survey methodologies to
complement more traditional
ethnographic techniques.
 Survey research is considerably
more impersonal than ethnography.
Anthropology in Complex
 Kottak argues that the core
contribution of ethnology remains
the qualitative data that result from
close, long-term, in-depth contact
between ethnographer and subjects.