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Ethnographic methods in the development context Chandana Mathur Department of Anthropology NUI Maynooth The invention of anthropological fieldwork Bronislaw Malinowski Trobriand Islands Functional forms of explanation Franz Boas Among the Kwakiutl of the Pacific North West coast Challenged scientific racism by insisting on the understanding of cultures in their context “the ethnographic present” In the classical monographs of British structural functionalism, e.g. Evans-Pritchard, The Nuer In Boasian salvage ethnography Challenges to the politics of fieldwork Anthropology and the colonial encounter Feminist anthropology James Clifford and George Marcus, Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography Also, all along, Marxist anthropologists remained cognisant of global historical and political economic processes Puncturing “ethnographic authority” It is true that there has historically been an unequal power relationship between anthropologists and their “subjects”, as the Writing Culture critique points out. But can it be solved stylistically, by the crafting of “new ethnographies”? Lila Abu-Lughod Fieldwork of a dutiful daughter leading to a remarkable person-centred ethnography Writing against culture -- fieldwork by “halfies” helps dissolve a hard-shelled notion of culture My doctoral fieldwork in small-town America How does it fit within the ebbs and flows of the discipline as described here? into the context of research in developing countries? Adapting classical ethnographic research methods to formulate an anthropology in reverse The fundamental insight of anthropological political economy: that cultural processes in our times cannot be understood without reference to the symbols, structures and practices of contemporary capitalism Regarding anthropology and development Too often, the assumption is: Culture is the missing piece in the development puzzle, which anthropology can provide This is an underlying assumption of modernisation theory, from W.W. Rostow’s The Stages of Economic Growth onwards. It is vital to see culture as process, a contested process at that. People are not “culturally programmed robots” (Abu-Lughod). Contemporary cultural struggles are best understood in the context of the long historical process of the making of the Global South. Anthropologists have taken on the concept of development itself James Ferguson, The Anti-Politics Machine Arturo Escobar, Encountering Development Ferguson -- fieldwork in Lesotho Uses Foucault’s insight that ideas and discourses produce material consequences. The discourse of development has constructed Lesotho as a creature of the genus ‘less developed country’ with the following characteristics Aboriginal economy Peasant society National economy Governmentality. The Thaba Tseka rural development project is an intervention based on these assumptions, which has the unintended effect of extending bureaucratic state power. Anthropology and Development The task is to understand cultural struggles in the context of the development process, with scepticism about both “culture” and “development”.