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FSU / Anthropology / ANT 2410 / What are the characteristics of ethnography today?

What are the characteristics of ethnography today?

What are the characteristics of ethnography today?


School: Florida State University
Department: Anthropology
Course: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Professor: K. dowell
Term: Fall 2015
Tags: Introd to Cul Anthro, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Anthro, and Anthropology
Cost: 25
Name: Chapter 2: Researching Anthropology
Description: These notes cover the material about chapter 2 that were presented this past week in class, as well as noted about the discussions we had.
Uploaded: 01/29/2018
6 Pages 109 Views 2 Unlocks


What are the characteristics of ethnography today?

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

Identify two founders of anthropology.

Don't forget about the age old question of What are the two ways to determine the mass of an object?

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”

∙ 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

Define ethnography.

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 If you want to learn more check out Who are hooke, leeuwenhoek, abbe, zeiss?

Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942)

Works in Trobriand Islands, 1915-1916

Key Contributions

∙ 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 We also discuss several other topics like What inspired le sun to dig a cave-temple in dunhuang, china?
We also discuss several other topics like What is the definition of an upwelling?

∙ Gaining rapport

o Key informants-most anthropologists work with a handful of people that are very knowledgeable about their culture ∙ Gift giving and exchange

o Importance of reciprocity

o Gifts should be culturally and ethically appropriate

∙ Identity and fieldworkDon't forget about the age old question of What is the mucosa in the internal tract?

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 We also discuss several other topics like What are the two main groups of gases?

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.


Fieldwork Techniques: 

∙ Participant-observation: participating and observing in the  culture that you’re studying

∙ ethnography

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

Doing Anthropology

∙ 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?

Representing Culture

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

∙ Collaborative

∙ 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

Additional Notes:

∙ 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

Lecture 1/26/18

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

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