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the Field George Gmelch Ethnographic fieldwork is a valued tradition in anthropology. Most anthro- pologists believe that the experience of living and working in another culture is essential to successful research. They also realize, however; that there is more to the experience than discovering and describing the culture ofothrrs. Like a rite of passage, fieldwork is an intense personal experience, one that yields deeper insight into one's own culture and personal life. It is this re- flexive power of fieldwork that George Gmelch He bases his analy- sis on the experiences of undergraduate students he has sent to do fieldwork in Barbados since 1978. He argues that, after a stressful beginning, students gain valuable new insight into their own views on materialism, gender; race, social class, the United States, and the value of' education as well as Barba- dian culture. "Lessons from the Field" revised and updated version for this edition of Conformity and Conflict. Copyright O 2000 by George Gmelch. Reprinted by permission of the author.
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46 T W 0 Culture and Ethnography Sara, Eric, and Kristen heave their backpacks and suitcases-all the gear they'll need for the next ten weeks-into the back of the Institute's battered Toyota pick-up. Sara, a tense grin on her face, gets up front with me; the others climb in the back and make themselves comfortable on the soft luggage. Leaving Bellairs Research Institute on the west coast of the island of Bar- bados, we drive north past the posh resort hotels. The scene changes abruptly as we move h-om tourism to agriculture, from the hustle and noise of the coast to the green and quiet of rolling sugar cane fields. There are no more white faces. Gracehll cabbage palms flank a large plantation house, one of the island's "great houses." On the edge of its cane fields is a tenantry, a cluster of small board houses whose inhabitants are the descendants of the slaves who once worked on he plantation. Entering the village of Mile and a Quarter, so named because that is the distance from the village to nearby Speightstown, I point out the small orange and blue board house that one of my first students lived in. Sara and the others know of Ellen, as she became a documentary film maker and has made several films about the island which they have seen. Two monkeys emerge from a cane field and scamper across the road. I mention that monkeys came to Barbados on early slave ships, 300 years ago. But Sara, absorbed in her own thoughts, doesn't seem to hear me. I've taken enough students to the "field" to have an idea of what's on her mind. She is won- dering what her village will be like-the one we just passed through looked un- clsually poor. And will she like the family she is going to live with? Will they like her? Many people are walking along the road; clusters of men sit outside a rum shop shouting loudly while slamming dominoes on a wobbly plywood table. She is wondering how she will ever make friends with these people and gain their acceptance, which as a student anthropologist she must do.
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