Fieldwork - 183 FIELDNOTES Pritchard 1940; Freud 1918;...

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Unformatted text preview: 183 FIELDNOTES Pritchard 1940; Freud 1918; Pitt-Rivers 1958 fieldnotes are literally those notes writ- ten by a researcher while in the field. However, while psychologists and sociol- ogists (or ecologists, for that matter) write fieldnotes, it is anthropologists who have invested them with the most meaning (Jean Jackson 1990). The anthropologist Roger Saniek (1990b) distinguished four varieties: “scratchnotes” quickly written during an event, “fieldnotes proper,” which are fully fleshed—out notes written later; “head— notes,” which consist of memories and re— flections that were never written down, and “filednotes,” which are any of the above further processed after leaving the field. Unlike laboratory notebooks, there is no standard format for fieldnotes. The idio- syncrasies of the anthropologist, the field situation, the nature of the research, issues of confidentiality, and the enormous vari- ety of people being studied mean that a fieldwork manual with rigid instructions about how to take fieldnotes will probably never be written. Anthropologists difi‘er about the owner- ship of fieldnotes (especially after the author’s death) and their use by others (Obbo 1990). In some countries there have been attempts to provide legal status to such documents that clarifies the condi— tions under which the subjects (or spon- sors) of the research have access to them (Greaves 1994). Although some anthro- pologists see their notes as repositories for future research, many others regard them as confidential because they contain a mix of personal information and data in raw form that could easily be misinterpreted or misused. And given the abundance of in- stances in which fieldnotes have been used for purposes far afield from the original intention — the most famous being the post— humous publication of Malinowski’s field diary (1967) — this attitude will probably persist (Forge 1972; C. Geertz 1988). But interest in INTEPRETIVE ANTHROPOLOGY, critiques of overly positivist anthropology (G. Marcus 8: Fischer 1986, Clifford 1988), and the larger “ethnographies as text” discussions (G. Marcus 8t Cushman 1932; Clifford 6t Marcus 1986) have made; writings of all types, and the production of scientific knowledge itself, subiects of investigation in their own right. He See also FIELDW'ORK, PARTICIPANT- OBSERVATION further reading Saniek 1990a fieldwork is intense, long-term anthro- pological research conducted among a community of people. Archaeologists also do fieldwork, but not, for the most part, with living people. Sociologists carry out fieldwork as well (Hammersley & Atkinson 199 5), however, this kind of research, also called “qualitative sociology,” has never been the dominant paradigm in the disci— pline, whereas anthropologists have always been expected to go to the field at least for their initial dissertation research because “being there” is seen to result in superior work. Anthropological fieldwork differs in conceptualization, and for the most part in practice, from other kinds of field research because of its epistemology, history, and socialization practice. The stereotypical ethnographer is seen as doing PARTICI- PANT—OBSERvATION, but researchers also perform quantitative, survey, textual, de- mographic, and other types of analysis, de- pending on local conditions and the nature of the research project. Until recently the optimal choice was to Seek out as exotic a locale for research as possible; choosing sites closer to home and writing library dissertations were viewed as inferior alternatives. The question of just what anthropologi- cal fieldwork should consist of has ocea- siOned a great deal of literature. The classic and often-revised field manual Notes and queries (BAAS 1874), which attempted to cover everything under the sun, was supplemented by a large number of new works that began to appear from the 19605 onwards (examples include Ellen 1984; Agar 1980; and Bernard 1988). There has been a more recent explosion of reexive books on fieldwork, focusing on the experi- ence itself as opposed to how to carry out the research. Earlier such works adopted such genres as thinly disguised fiction (E. Bowen 1954) and autobiography (Levi-Strauss 1963c), in addition to more straightforward accounts of life in the field (Powdermaker 1966; Wax 1971; Maybury~ Lewis 1965a). Among the more recent books, Rabinow‘s description of fieldwork in Morocco (1977) and Cesara’s (1982) book provoked some controversy because of their candor about sexuality in the field. Beginning with women in the field (Golde 1970), GENDER has become a much- analyzed issue (T. Whitehead 8t Conaway 1936; Diane Bell et a1. 1993) that includes feminist field research (H. Roberts 1981) and fieldwork by gays and lesbians (Leap & Lewin 1996). Finally, some writings have focused on ethical issues (Rynkiewich 8r Spradley 1976) and other specific issues including stress arising in fieldwork (F. Henry & Saberwal 1969). Researchers carrying out traditional fieldwork are supposed to immerse them- selves, taking in large amounts of vastly different kinds of data. This range and abundance of “raw” experience and ob- servation helps put the more formally acquired informatitm, gathered through structured interviews, for instance, into context. Supporters of traditional fieldwork also argue that a great deal of learning about people and CULTURE needs to occur through direct experience, as opposed to the distancing and objectivity of the scien— tific method. Learning through senses other than seeing and hearing — by smelling or imitating habitual body postures, for in- stance — should occur (Stoller 1989). Through using their senses anthropologists serve as data-gathering instruments and al— terations in themselves become a way of knowing; or, as Susan Harding states, “the only certain evidence of the reality that preoccupies ethnographers, of shared unconscious knowledge, is experiential” (1987: 180). Proponents of “total immersion” fieldwork argue that the members of the community being studied will be far more forthcoming with information, confi- dences, intimacies, permissions to attend rituals, and so on, if they see that the fieldworker is really trying to live the way they do, speak their language, and under- stand their lives in as many dimensions as possible. A second advantage derives from researchers’ being ripped away from their FIELDWORK 1 89 familiar routines and unexamined assump~ tions. With such abrupt, at times violent, changes, it is argued, they are able to acquire new languages and habits more quickly and completely. The fact that fieldwork is often called a RITE OF PASSAGE signals not only the pre~dissertation anthropologist’s passing through an impor— tant career stage, but also recalls analyses of the painful, disorienting practices in initiation rites that function to eradicate the initiate’s taken-for—granted, comfort- able, familiar habits and expectations. Such violent ritual practices have been said to achieve the tasks of inscribing a new social status and teaching new concepts and be- haviors far more effectively than would happen if an initiate learned new knowl- edge with a minimum of affect and bodily participation. Anthropologists who discuss Such phenomenological learning in the field include Jean Briggs (1970) on the Inuit and Michael Jackson (1989) on Afri- can systems of thought. The long-term, intense, “experience- near” fieldwork is proposed and defended by its adherents as a way to achieve a pro- found, multidimensional knowledge not available to someone who visits a commu- nity for a few days or weeks. One is more likely to learn secret or esoteric knowledge this way, and the kinds of knowledge that the possessors do not have immediate ac- cess so must, therefore, be acquired using means other than direct interrogation. Bourdieu‘s (1977) notion of habitus (re- petitive, unconscious, mundane practices) is pertinent here. Virtually all of anthro~ pology’s ancestral figures have contributed to the extensive debates in the social sci- ences over how to interpret a postulated meaning that is not readily available to the consciousness of the members of the com- munity being studied. Examples are Marx’s false consciousness, Gramsci’s hegemony, and Bourdieu’s dam (unquestioningly accepted authoritative discourses and practices). Most publications on fieldwork discuss the best mix of scientific (stressing objectiv- ity and replicability) and experiential, em— pathic, intuitive approaches (stressing that fieldworkers must “get under the native‘s skin” and come close to “going native"). l 90 FILIATION Anthropology‘s most revered fieldworker, MAUNOWSKI, stated that “natural inter- course” is superior to information acquired from “a paid, and often bored, informant” (1922: '7). The lore about “going native,” that quintessentially anthropological occu- pational hazard (albeit mostly apocryphal), illustrates the advantages and perils of fieldwork. Participating too much results in one‘s going native; participating too little turns one into a superficial, ethnocentric, survey-wielding, number-crunching social scientist with, some say, zero insight into the people being studied. Ultimately all fieldwork hinges on a rather dynamic and contradictory synthesis of insider and out- sider. As an outsider, the fieldworker sees things, makes comparisons, and has experi- ences that insiders cannot see, make, or have. As an insider, the fieldworker learns what the behavior observed means to the people themselves. Anthropology offers an instructive history of master theories being applied to radically different cultures only to be discredited later as crudely ethnocen- tric (Tambiah 1984). All variants of fieldwork have been thoroughly scrutinized and criticized since the mid-19705. Hyper—positivist fieldwork methods are under fire from POSTMODERNISM and fieldwork in general has been faulted for overprivileging the knowledge gained “on location” because it results in fixing people in an unreal, arbi- trary TIME (Fabian 1983) and in an equally unreal space L a mystified, neverwnever— land that exists only as an anthropological construct. Because anthropology finds it convenient to claim a unique under- standing based on this methodology, so this argument goes, the result is an underprivileging of all of the non— contiguous information controlled by the people being studied and a systematic obscuring of how “unnative” many re- search subjects in fact are. Gupta called this “empiricist epistemology” (1995: 377), and Appadurai (1988b: 36) argued that the native becomes metonymically frozen in place. A heightened awareness has emerged that acknowledges that much of what an- thropologists observe in a given locale has meaning only in connection with activities and meanings located elsewhere, both tem~ porally and spatially. Local communities are constructed by regional, national, and transnational forces; research situations like diasporas and refugee camps illustrate this especially well, as does work in - creolized societies that draw on multiple: cultural threads (Hannerz 1987}. Hence, although as James Fernandez says, “being- there” is mainly what anthropology is about. (1985: 19), this “there,” especially the con— sequences of its role in constituting anthro~ pological professional identity, needs to be problematized. The unwarranted assump- tions behind fieldwork understood as nec- essarily carried out in spatial and temporal confines become apparent as researchers grapple with such sources of data as news- papers, television, film, and other forms of public culture. Another source of critique is postcolonial studies, which deconstruct how a hegemonic Western secial science such as anthropology fashions its particular alterity. In other words, “the field” is reified and assumptions are made about unity, cohesiveness, and so on, and this renders it problematic in terms of conceptualization and of its claims as a superior methodology. Current critiques of many analytic con- cepts reveal similar problems of reification in such terms as “CULTURE,” the “STATE,” and “SOCIETY” as well. With an increase in debate about the how and why of anthropological research (as well as an increase in Third World countries that deny permission to anthro- pological researchers and a drying-up of funding for such projects), carrying out fieldwork in distant places has decreasing cachet. Some anthropologists have found traditional anthropological fieldwork so problematic that they adeCate cultural history approaches. ]]a further reading manuals * Crane 8L Angrosino 1992; Jongmans & Gutkind 196'? [annotated bibliography on anthro- pological fieldwork methods is extremely useful}; Kottak 1982; Spradley 1980; Spradley & McCui-dy 1972 [for anthro- pology students]; fieldwork accounts — Freilich 1970; Kimball 81. Watson 1912; Spindler 1970 filiation is the process by which indi- viduals are socially attached to their par- ...
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This note was uploaded on 10/06/2010 for the course ANTHRO anthro 100 taught by Professor Riaz during the Spring '10 term at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.

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Fieldwork - 183 FIELDNOTES Pritchard 1940; Freud 1918;...

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