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Fieldwork continued
Participant Observation
• Anthropologists use this technique more
than any other and more extensively than
any other social science discipline
• Means becoming involved in the culture
under study while making systematic
observations of what is going on
• Involves establishing rapport in a new
Guidelines in ParticipantObservation Fieldwork
• It is advisable to work one’s way down the
political hierarchy
• When introducing self, select one role and use it
• Proceed slowly. Ethnographers must invest a
considerable amount of time and energy
establishing their credibility by allowing the local
people to get to know them
• Communicate with the local people, in a genuine
way, that one is a student, wanting to learn more
about a subject on which they are the experts
Advantages of ParticipantObservation
• People in most cultures appreciate any
attempt by the anthropologist to live
according to the rules of their culture
• Enables the fieldworker to distinguish
between normative and real behavior
(what people should do and what people
actually do)
• Data-gathering is more accurate
Disadvantages of ParticipantObservation
• Only a small sample size can be used
because the technique is time consuming
• It is often hard to categorize the data,
which makes synthesizing and comparing
data difficult
• Sometimes difficult to record experiences
as they happen
• Details are lost in the time between the
event and its recording
• Used for obtaining two types of data
– What people think or feel (attitudinal data)
– What people do (behavioral data)
• Interviewer and the subject may speak different
first languages
• Ethnographic interview is often much broader in
scope because it elicits information on the entire
• Cannot be used alone but must be used in
conjunction with other data-gathering techniques
Unstructured Interviews
• Involve a minimum of control
• Interviewer asks open-ended questions on
a general topic and allows interviewees to
respond at their own pace using their own
• Usually used early in the data-gathering
• Have the advantage of allowing informants
to decide what is important to include in
their information
Structured Interviews
• Interviewer asks all informants exactly the
same set of questions, in the same
sequence, and preferably under the same
set of conditions
• Have the advantage of producing large
quantities of data that are comparable and
lend themselves well to statistical
Guidelines for Conducting
• Field guides available but may force one’s
thinking into Western categories that have little
relevance for the culture being studied
• Take precautions to minimize distortions in the
• Phrase questions positively
• Avoid two-pronged questions
• Leave more controversial questions for last
• Keep recording as unobtrusive as possible
• Pre-test questions asked as part of the
structured interview to eliminate ambiguous or
misleading questions
Validity of Data Collected
• Ask a number of people the same
• Ask a person the same question over time
• Compare behavior and responses
Additional Data Gathering
• Census Taking – involves the collection of basic
demographic data
• Mapping – ethnographic mapping is the attempt
to locate people, material culture, and
environmental features in space
• Document analysis – supplements the
information collected through interviewing and
observation. Provides large quantities of data, is
inexpensive, and is totally unobtrusive
• Genealogizing – writing down all of the relatives
of a particular informant
• Photography – both still and motion pictures are
important aids to data collection
Fieldwork Challenges and Benefits
• Anthropologist in the field is faced with a number
of anxiety producing situations
• Despite careful research design and
preparations, fieldwork is full of unanticipated
• Sometimes fieldwork can be in life-threatening
– Contagious disease, social violence, crimes
• Culture shock
• Biculturalism
Recent Trends in Ethnographic
• Cultural anthropology must strive for
objectivity by being sensitive to
methodological issues
• Tensions between subjectivity of
participating and objectivity of observation
has traditionally been resolved by
reporting findings in scientific terms
• Reflexive methods/Narrative ethnography
• Statistical cross cultural comparisons
Ethics of Applied Anthropology
• Researchers are faced with ethical dilemmas
• Applied anthropologists often have work aimed
at changing the culture of population
• Each member of the profession is ultimately
responsible for anticipating the ethical dilemmas
and resolving them in such a way as to do no
• Ethics is longstanding issue in anthropology
• Code of Ethics adopted by AAA and by SfAA
• Field ethnographers in USA have little legal
protection in maintaining the confidentiality of