Research Methods in Anthropology
∙ Identify the primary methods of anthropology-How do we do it? ∙ Identify two founders: Franz Boaz and Bronislaw Malinowski ∙ Identify characteristics of ethnology today
Defining Key terms
∙ Fieldwork-going to the “field” for an extended period of time to learn about a culture through direct observation, interaction and experience
∙ Participant observation: primary method in cultural anthropology, three main components:
o Living (and sometimes working) with a people/culture for an extended period of time
o Participating in, observing and recording data about people’s every day life
o Often involves learning a language
∙ Ethnography-process and product of fieldwork. When talking about process, used interchangeably with participant observation, “deep hanging out”
The Professionalization of anthropology
∙ Key theorists; Franz Boas and Bronislaw Malinowski ∙ Develops around the turn of the 20th century
Differs from “armchair anthropology” Don't forget about the age old question of What are the two ways to determine the mass of an object?
∙ Amateur scholars who never traveled to or lived with the people and cultures they were writing about and instead relied on research on what other people brought back
∙ Characteristic of the Victorian era, mid-late 1800s
If you want to learn more check out Who is fritz zernike?
Franz Boas-(1858-1942)-American Anthropology Key Contributions
∙ Cultural relativism-cultures need to be studied in their own context
∙ Criticized social evolutionism-all cultures are equally complex ∙ Fieldwork
o Long-term intensive experience living on-site with people o Learning the native language
∙ Four-field approach
∙ Culture is dynamic-all cultures change and all cultures have history
Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) If you want to learn more check out What inspired le sun to dig a cave-temple in dunhuang, china?
Works in Trobriand Islands, 1915-1916
∙ Participant –observation
o Long-term fieldwork
o Observing daily life and participating in cultural activities ∙ Functionalism-believed that each aspect of society (i.e. religion, politics, family structure) was connected and served to ensure a smooth functioning society
∙ Goal of anthropology is to “grasp the native’s point of view”
Changing methods in a global world
Today there are few, if any isolated cultures-all peoples and cultures are active participants in the modern globalized world Therefore cultural anthropologists need new methods for studying ∙ Larger-scale cultures
∙ Global-scale connections
∙ Cultural change
Multi-sited ethnography- a method that involves doing research in more than one location-having multiple research sites (one way for accommodating this complexity)
Working in the field
Fieldwork is hard!-is a lengthy and difficult process
∙ Recording culture
o Taking field notes
o Audio recordings, photographs, video
∙ Culture shock
∙ Gaining rapport Don't forget about the age old question of What is the definition of a polar molecule?
o Key informants-most anthropologists work with a handful of people that are very knowledgeable about their culture ∙ Gift giving and exchange We also discuss several other topics like What is the mucosa in the internal tract?
o Importance of reciprocity
o Gifts should be culturally and ethically appropriate
∙ Identity and fieldwork
o Issues of race, class, gender and age-these aspects of the anthropologist’s identity can directly impact their level of access and acceptance in doing research
Additional notes: stuff that was discussed/mentioned in class ∙ Dr. Thorner showed us pictures of her dissertation work in Australia
∙ Did you know that President Barack Obama’s mother Stanley Ann Dunham was an anthropologist? (I didn’t, pretty cool though.) ∙ A “swag” is a combination of a tent and sleeping bag that Thorner used when they went traveling in Australia (I want one.) ∙ Boaz also:
o Pushed against the idea of social Darwinism
o Published material in all four subfields
o Was a German Jew who fled Germany during World War II to escape the Nazis
o Accepted that cultures interact
∙ Malinowski was also contemporary of Boaz
∙ Most people think of the romanticized perception of anthropology, starring “the heroic anthropologist” who travels to far-off exotic lands etc.
∙ Participant-observation: participating and observing in the culture that you’re studying Don't forget about the age old question of What are the two main groups of gases?
o process of doing research
o written book presenting the anthropologist’s analysis (can also be a film)
∙ Interviewing-informal and formal; can include life histories ∙ Museum work/object-based research
∙ Audiovisual documentation- making film, taking photos in the field
∙ Collaboration/contributing your labor to your interlocutors’ work/projects/initiatives
∙ Genealogical method
o Kinship charts
o Community/family histories
∙ Library and archival research: learning what research other scholars have done with/about this culture, complements what anthropologists will do in the field and supplements research
∙ Surveys, mapping, social network analysis
∙ This video Doing Anthropology (2008) shows three cultural anthropologists (one woman studied Haitian communities here in the US, one woman studied artisanal cheese makers, and the last guy was studying marine biologists in the marine lab at MIT) from MIT conducting research and talking about their work. ∙ What research methods did you see in this video?
∙ Is there anything surprising to you about cultural anthropology in this video?
Ethnography-the descriptive writing about a culture (can also be film)
∙ What is your data?
∙ How do you analze qualitative data, in particular?
∙ Look for themes/patterns in action speech
Characteristics of ethnography today:
∙ Reflexive-ethnography today tends to acknowledge presence of the ethnographer, can be written in the first-person ∙ Polyvocal
∙ Ethics code
∙ Show local/global connections
∙ Research on Western societies
American Anthropological Association’s Code of Ethics ∙ Primary obligation is to the people the anthropologist is studying ∙ DO NO HARM
∙ Voluntary informed consent
∙ Disclosure-no covert/undercover research
∙ Collaborative relationships
∙ “give something back”--reciprocity
∙ Genealogy and kinship charts used to be a really common method to use in the field
∙ Anthropologists are the instruments of their research ∙ Is it still anthropology is it’s a culture you’re a part of? - bring a cultural lens and awareness of changes within culture while you’re studying your culture.
∙ Around 1970s, anthropologists started “studying sideways” and “up”, movement started when Laura Nader brought up the
question, “why aren’t we studying sideways or up?”-our own society
∙ Robin Nagle-studied sanitation workers in New York city ∙ Anthropological fieldwork can be very demanding and very rewarding
∙ How do you represent others?
∙ Polyvocal and collaborative go hand-in-hand
∙ Contemporary ethnography characteristic is that the people/culture who are being studied are onboard and included with the research
Watched “Number Our Days”-ethnographic film-by Barbra Myerhoff who also wrote a book about her work
∙ Won an academy award the year it came out
∙ Barbra approached it as an anthropological endeavor ∙ it was emotional, and more intimate than the past videos we’ve seen
First Assignment: Ethnographic Observation Paper-Check Canvas Summing up on Anthropological methods
∙ Key terms-be able to define/explain fieldwork, participant observations, ethnography, “armchair” anthropology, rapport, key informants, culture shock
∙ Be familiar with the two major founding figures in cultural anthropology: Boas and Malinowski (and what their contributions were)
∙ Identify major research techniques of cultural anthropology
∙ Be familiar with the characteristics of ethnography today ∙ Next week: Exchange, reciprocity, economic systems Additional Notes: Notes I jotted down as we watched the film ∙ Myerhoff studied the aging, Jewish community of Venice, California
∙ Aging in an ethnic group-> her own people
∙ “anthropology or personal quest?”-Myerhoff
∙ Feels validity in observing
∙ Aging thought as losses
∙ Bertha and Mike are friends that meet and sit at a bench to talk- >Mike can’t help Bertha from reminiscing about her children (she outlived all her children), her life, etc
∙ In the Israel Levin Senior Center, the elderly turn to each other ∙ Harry chose his death (he died after he gave a final speech at the center)
∙ The director of the center is the fearless leader and defender of the center and the elderly community
∙ “Old age is a curse.”
∙ The Sabbath is started early at the Center so that the elderly don’t have to walk in the dark
o New Year’s celebrations are also celebrated for convenience