malnowski,_bronislaw._subject,_method,_and_scope._blackberry

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Unformatted text preview: SUBJECT, METHOD A ND SCOPE b we- - - <---- d b. Imagine yourself suddenly set down surrounded by all your gear, alone on a tropical beach close to a native village, while the launch or dinghy which has brought you sails away out of sight. Since you take up your abode in the compound of some neighbouring white man, trader or missionary, you have nothing to do, but to start at once on your ethnographic work. Imagine further that you are a beginner, without previous experience, with nothing to guide you and no one to help you. For the white man is temporarily absent, or else unable or unwilling to waste any of his time on you. This exactly describes my first initiation into field work on the south coast of New Guinea. I well remember the long visits I paid to the villages during the first weeks ; t he feeling of hopelessness and despair after many obstinate but futile attempts had entirely failed to bring me into real touch with the natives, or supply me with any material. I h ad periods of despondency, when I buried myself in the reading ot novels, as a man might take to drink in a fit of tropical depression and boredom. Imagine yourself then, making your first entry into the village, alone or in company with your white cicerone. Some natives flock round you, especially if they smell tobacco. Others, t hemore dignified and elderly, remain seated where they are. Your white companion has his routine way of treating the natives, and he neither understands, nor is very much concerned with the manner i n which you, as an ethnographer, will have to approach them. The first visit leaves you with a hopeful feeling that when you return alone, things will be easier. Such was my hope at least. I came back duly, and soon gathered an audience around me. A few compliments in pidgin-English on both sides, some tobacco changing hands, induced an atmosphere of mutual amiability. I tried then to proceed to business. First, to begin with subjects which might arouse no suspicion, I s tarted to " d o " technology. A few natives were engaged in manufacturing some object or other. I t was easy to look at it and obtain the names of the tools, and even some technical expressions about the proceedings, but there the matter ended. I t must be borne in mind that pidgin-English is a very imperfect instrument for expressing one's ideas, and that before one gets a good training in framing questions and understanding answers one has the uncomfortable feeling that free communication in it with the natives will never. be attained ; a nd I was quite unable to enter into any more detailed or explicit conversation with them at first. I knew well that the best remedy for this was to c.ollect concrete data, and accordingly I took a village census, wrote down genealqgies, drew up plans and collected the terms of kinship. But all this remained dead material, which led no further into the understanding of real native mentality or behaviour, since I could neither procure a good native interpretation of any of these items, nor get what could be called t he h ang of tribal life. As to obtaining their ideas about religion, and magic, their beliefs in sorcery and spirits, nothing was forthcoming except a few superficial items of folk-lore, mangled by being forced into pidgin English. Information which I received from some white residents in the district, valuable as it was in itself, was more discouraging than anything else with regard to my own work. Here were men who had lived for years in the place with constant opportunities of observing the natives and communicating with them, and who yet hardly knew one thing about them really well. How could I therefore in a few months or a year, hope to overtake and go beyond them ? Moreover, the manner in which my white informants spoke a bout t he natives and put their views was, naturally, that of untrained minds, unaccustomed to formulate their thoughts with any degree of consistency and precision. And they were for the most part, naturally enough, f ull of the biassed and pre-judged opinions inevitable in the average practical man, whether administrator, missionary. or trader, yet so strongly repulsive to a mind striving after the ., SUBJECT, METHOD A ND SCOPE b we- - - <---- d b. Imagine yourself suddenly set down surrounded by all your gear, alone on a tropical beach close to a native village, while the launch or dinghy which has brought you sails away out of sight. Since you take up your abode in the compound of some neighbouring white man, trader or missionary, you have nothing to do, but to start at once on your ethnographic work. Imagine further that you are a beginner, without previous experience, with nothing to guide you and no one to help you. For the white man is temporarily absent, or else unable or unwilling to waste any of his time on you. This exactly describes my first initiation into field work on the south coast of New Guinea. I well remember the long visits I paid to the villages during the first weeks ; t he feeling of hopelessness and despair after many obstinate but futile attempts had entirely failed to bring me into real touch with the natives, or supply me with any material. I h ad periods of despondency, when I buried myself in the reading ot novels, as a man might take to drink in a fit of tropical depression and boredom. Imagine yourself then, making your first entry into the village, alone or in company with your white cicerone. Some natives flock round you, especially if they smell tobacco. Others, t hemore dignified and elderly, remain seated where they are. Your white companion has his routine way of treating the natives, and he neither understands, nor is very much concerned with the manner i n which you, as an ethnographer, will have to approach them. The first visit leaves you with a hopeful feeling that when you return alone, things will be easier. Such was my hope at least. I came back duly, and soon gathered an audience around me. A few compliments in pidgin-English on both sides, some tobacco changing hands, induced an atmosphere of mutual amiability. I tried then to proceed to business. First, to begin with subjects which might arouse no suspicion, I s tarted to " d o " technology. A few natives were engaged in manufacturing some object or other. I t was easy to look at it and obtain the names of the tools, and even some technical expressions about the proceedings, but there the matter ended. I t must be borne in mind that pidgin-English is a very imperfect instrument for expressing one's ideas, and that before one gets a good training in framing questions and understanding answers one has the uncomfortable feeling that free communication in it with the natives will never. be attained ; a nd I was quite unable to enter into any more detailed or explicit conversation with them at first. I knew well that the best remedy for this was to c.ollect concrete data, and accordingly I took a village census, wrote down genealqgies, drew up plans and collected the terms of kinship. But all this remained dead material, which led no further into the understanding of real native mentality or behaviour, since I could neither procure a good native interpretation of any of these items, nor get what could be called t he h ang of tribal life. As to obtaining their ideas about religion, and magic, their beliefs in sorcery and spirits, nothing was forthcoming except a few superficial items of folk-lore, mangled by being forced into pidgin English. Information which I received from some white residents in the district, valuable as it was in itself, was more discouraging than anything else with regard to my own work. Here were men who had lived for years in the place with constant opportunities of observing the natives and communicating with them, and who yet hardly knew one thing about them really well. How could I therefore in a few months or a year, hope to overtake and go beyond them ? Moreover, the manner in which my white informants spoke a bout t he natives and put their views was, naturally, that of untrained minds, unaccustomed to formulate their thoughts with any degree of consistency and precision. And they were for the most part, naturally enough, f ull of the biassed and pre-judged opinions inevitable in the average practical man, whether administrator, missionary. or trader, yet so strongly repulsive to a mind striving after the ., 6 SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 7 objective, scientific view of things. The habit of treating with a self-satisfied frivolity what is really serious to the ethnographer ; t he cheap rating of w hat t o him is a scientific treasure, that is to say, the native's cultural and mental peculiarities and independence-these features, so well known in the inferior amateur's writing, I found in the tone of the majority of white residents. * Indeed, in my first piece of Ethnographic research on the South coast, it was not until I was alone in the district that I began to make some headway ; a nd, at any rate, I found out where lay the secret of effective field-work. What is then this ethnographer's magic, by which he is able to evoke the real spirit of the natives, the true picture of tribal life ? Asusual, success can only be obtained by a patient and systematic application of a number of rules of common sense and wellknown scientific principles, and not by the discovery of any marvellous short-cut leading to the desired results without effort or trouble. The principles of method can be grouped under three main headings ; first of all, naturally, the student must possess real scientific aims, and know the values and criteria of modem ethnography. Secondly, he ought to put himself in good conditions of work. that is, in the main, to live without other white men, right among the natives. Finally, he has to apply a number of special methods of collecting, manipulating and fixing his evidence. A few words must be said about these three foundation stones of field work, beginning with the second as the most elementary. Proper conditions for ethnographic work. These, as said, consist mainly in cutting oneself off from the company of o ther white men, and remaining in as close contact with the natives as possible, which really can only be achieved by camping right in their villages (see Plates I and 11). I t is very nice to have a base in a white man's compound for the stores, and to know there is a refuge there in times of sickness and surfeit of native. But i t must be far enough away not to become a permanent milieu in which you live and from which you emerge a t fixed 1 m ay note at once t hat there were a few delightful exceptions to that, to mention only m y friends Billy Hancock in the Trobriands : M. HatTael Brudo, another pearl trader ; and the missionary, Mr. M . K . Gilmour. 1 1 1 hours only to " do the village." I t should not even be near enough to fly to at any moment for recreation. For the native is not the natural companion for a white man, and after you have been working with him for several hours, seeing how he does his gardens, or letting him tell you items of folk-lore, or discussing his customs, you will naturally hanker after the company of your own kind. But if you are alone in a village beyond reach of this, you go for a solitary walk for an hour or so, r eturn again and then quite naturally seek out the natives' society, this time as a relief from loneliness, just as you would any other companionship. And by means of this natural intercourse, you learn to know him, and you become familiar with his customs and beliefs far better than when he is a paid, and often bored, informant. There is all the difference between a sporadic plunging into the company of natives, and being really in contact with them. What does this latter mean ? On the Ethnographer's side, i t means that his life, in the village, which a t first is a strange, sometimes unpleasant, sometimes intensely interesting adventure, soon adopts quite a natural course very much in harmony with his surroundings. Soon after I had established myself in Omarakana (Trobriand Islands), I began to take part, in a way, in the village life, to look forward to the important or festive events, to take personal interest in the gossip and the developments of the small village occurrences ; t o wake up every morning to a day, presenting itself to me more or less as it does t o the native. I would get out from under my mosquito net, t o find around me the village life beginning to stir, or the people well advanced in their working day according to the hour and also to the season, for they get up and begin their labours early or late, as work presses. As I went on my morning walk through the village, I could see intimate details of family life, of toilet, cooking, taking of meals ; I could see the arrangements for the day's work, people starting on their errands, or groups of men and women busy a t some manufacturing tasks (see Plate 111). Quarrels, jokes, family scenes, events usually trivial, sometimes dramatic but always significant, formed the atmosphere of my daily life, as well as of theirs. It must be remembered that as the natives saw me constantly every day, they ceased t o be interested or alarmed, or made self-conscious by my 6 SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 7 objective, scientific view of things. The habit of treating with a self-satisfied frivolity what is really serious to the ethnographer ; t he cheap rating of w hat t o him is a scientific treasure, that is to say, the native's cultural and mental peculiarities and independence-these features, so well known in the inferior amateur's writing, I found in the tone of the majority of white residents. * Indeed, in my first piece of Ethnographic research on the South coast, it was not until I was alone in the district that I began to make some headway ; a nd, at any rate, I found out where lay the secret of effective field-work. What is then this ethnographer's magic, by which he is able to evoke the real spirit of the natives, the true picture of tribal life ? Asusual, success can only be obtained by a patient and systematic application of a number of rules of common sense and wellknown scientific principles, and not by the discovery of any marvellous short-cut leading to the desired results without effort or trouble. The principles of method can be grouped under three main headings ; first of all, naturally, the student must possess real scientific aims, and know the values and criteria of modem ethnography. Secondly, he ought to put himself in good conditions of work. that is, in the main, to live without other white men, right among the natives. Finally, he has to apply a number of special methods of collecting, manipulating and fixing his evidence. A few words must be said about these three foundation stones of field work, beginning with the second as the most elementary. Proper conditions for ethnographic work. These, as said, consist mainly in cutting oneself off from the company of o ther white men, and remaining in as close contact with the natives as possible, which really can only be achieved by camping right in their villages (see Plates I and 11). I t is very nice to have a base in a white man's compound for the stores, and to know there is a refuge there in times of sickness and surfeit of native. But i t must be far enough away not to become a permanent milieu in which you live and from which you emerge a t fixed 1 m ay note at once t hat there were a few delightful exceptions to that, to mention only m y friends Billy Hancock in the Trobriands : M. HatTael Brudo, another pearl trader ; and the missionary, Mr. M . K . Gilmour. 1 1 1 hours only to " do the village." I t should not even be near enough to fly to at any moment for recreation. For the native is not the natural companion for a white man, and after you have been working with him for several hours, seeing how he does his gardens, or letting him tell you items of folk-lore, or discussing his customs, you will naturally hanker after the company of your own kind. But if you are alone in a village beyond reach of this, you go for a solitary walk for an hour or so, r eturn again and then quite naturally seek out the natives' society, this time as a relief from loneliness, just as you would any other companionship. And by means of this natural intercourse, you learn to know him, and you become familiar with his customs and beliefs far better than when he is a paid, and often bored, informant. There is all the difference between a sporadic plunging into the company of natives, and being really in contact with them. What does this latter mean ? On the Ethnographer's side, i t means that his life, in the village, which a t first is a strange, sometimes unpleasant, sometimes intensely interesting adventure, soon adopts quite a natural course very much in harmony with his surroundings. Soon after I had established myself in Omarakana (Trobriand Islands), I began to take part, in a way, in the village life, to look forward to the important or festive events, to take personal interest in the gossip and the developments of the small village occurrences ; t o wake up every morning to a day, presenting itself to me more or less as it does t o the native. I would get out from under my mosquito net, t o find around me the village life beginning to stir, or the people well advanced in their working day according to the hour and also to the season, for they get up and begin their labours early or late, as work presses. As I went on my morning walk through the village, I could see intimate details of family life, of toilet, cooking, taking of meals ; I could see the arrangements for the day's work, people starting on their errands, or groups of men and women busy a t some manufacturing tasks (see Plate 111). Quarrels, jokes, family scenes, events usually trivial, sometimes dramatic but always significant, formed the atmosphere of my daily life, as well as of theirs. It must be remembered that as the natives saw me constantly every day, they ceased t o be interested or alarmed, or made self-conscious by my SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE presence, and 1 ceased to be a disturbing element in the tribal life which I was to study, altering it by my very approach, as always happens with a new-comer to every savage community. In fact, as they knew that I would t hrust my nose into everything, even where a well-mannered native would not dream of intruding, they finished by regarding me as part and parcel of their life, a necessary evil or nuisance, mitigated by donations of tobacco. Later on in the day, whatever happened was within easy reach, and there was no possibility of its escaping my notice. Alarms about the sorcerer's approach in the evening, one or two big, really important quarrels and rifts within the community, cases of illness, attempted cures and deaths, magical rites which had to be performed, all these I had not to pursue, fearful of missing them, but they took place under my very eyes, a t my own doorstep, so to speak (see Plate IV). And it must be emphasised whenever anything dramatic or important occurs it is essential to investigate it at the very moment of happening, because the natives cannot but talk about it, are too excited to be reticent, and too interested to be mentally lazy in supplying details. Also, over and over again, I committed breaches of etiquette, which the natives, familiar enough with me, were not slow in pointing out. I had to learn how to behave, a n 3 to a certain extent, 1 acquired " t he feeling " for native good and bad manners. With this, and with the capacity of enjoying their company and sharing some of their games and amusements, I began to feel that I was indeed in touch with the natives, and this is certainly the preliminary condition of beiny able to carry on successful field work. But the Ethnographer has not only to spread his nets in the right place, and wait for what will fall into them. He must be an active huntsman, and drive his quarry into them and follow it up to its most inaccessible lairs. And that leads us t o the more active methods of pursuing ethnographic evidence. I t has been mentioned a t the end of Division I11 t hat the Ethnographer has to be inspired by the knowledge of the most modern results of scientific study, by its principles and aims. I shall not enlarge upon this subject, except by way of one remark, to avoid the possibility of misunderstanding. Good SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE training in theory, and acquaintance with its latest results, is not identical with being burdened with " preconceived ideas." If a man sets out on an expedition, determined to prove certain hypotheses, if he is incapable of changing his views constantly and casting them off ungrudgingly under the pressure of evidence, needless to say his work will be worthless. But the more problems he brings with him into the field, the more he is in the habit of moulding his theories according to facts, and of seeing facts in their bearing upon theory, the better he is equipped for the work. Preconceived ideas are pernicious in any scientific work, but foreshadowed problems are the main endowment of a scientific thinker, and these problems are first revealed to t he observer by his theoretical studies. In Ethnology the early efforts of B astian, Tylor, Morgan, the German Vdlkerpsychologen have remoulded the older crude information of travellers, missionaries, etc., and have shown us the importance of applying deeper conceptions and discarding crude and misleading ones.* The concept of animism superseded that of " fetichism " or " devil-worship," both meaningless terms. The understanding of the classificatory systems of relationship paved the way for the brilliant, modern researches on native sociology in the field-work of the Cambridge school. The psychological analysis of the German thinkers has brought forth an abundant crop of most valuable information in the results obtained by the recent German expeditions to Africa, South America and the Pacific, while the theoretical works of Frazer, Durkheim and others have already, and will no doubt still for a long time inspire field workers and lead them to new results. The field worker relies entirely upon inspiration from theory. Of course he may be also a theoretical thinker and worker, and there he can draw on himself for stin.ulus. B ut the two functions are separate, and in actual research they have to be separated both in time and conditions of work. As always happens when scientific interest turns towards and begins to labour on a field so far only prospected by the curiosity of amateurs, Ethnology has introduced law and order into what seemed chaotic and freakish. It has transformed f< us the sensational, wild and unaccountable world of According to a useful habit of the terminology of science. I use the word Ethnography for the empirical and descriptive results of the science of Man, and the word Ethnology for speculahve and comparative theories. SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE presence, and 1 ceased to be a disturbing element in the tribal life which I was to study, altering it by my very approach, as always happens with a new-comer to every savage community. In fact, as they knew that I would t hrust my nose into everything, even where a well-mannered native would not dream of intruding, they finished by regarding me as part and parcel of their life, a necessary evil or nuisance, mitigated by donations of tobacco. Later on in the day, whatever happened was within easy reach, and there was no possibility of its escaping my notice. Alarms about the sorcerer's approach in the evening, one or two big, really important quarrels and rifts within the community, cases of illness, attempted cures and deaths, magical rites which had to be performed, all these I had not to pursue, fearful of missing them, but they took place under my very eyes, a t my own doorstep, so to speak (see Plate IV). And it must be emphasised whenever anything dramatic or important occurs it is essential to investigate it at the very moment of happening, because the natives cannot but talk about it, are too excited to be reticent, and too interested to be mentally lazy in supplying details. Also, over and over again, I committed breaches of etiquette, which the natives, familiar enough with me, were not slow in pointing out. I had to learn how to behave, a n 3 to a certain extent, 1 acquired " t he feeling " for native good and bad manners. With this, and with the capacity of enjoying their company and sharing some of their games and amusements, I began to feel that I was indeed in touch with the natives, and this is certainly the preliminary condition of beiny able to carry on successful field work. But the Ethnographer has not only to spread his nets in the right place, and wait for what will fall into them. He must be an active huntsman, and drive his quarry into them and follow it up to its most inaccessible lairs. And that leads us t o the more active methods of pursuing ethnographic evidence. I t has been mentioned a t the end of Division I11 t hat the Ethnographer has to be inspired by the knowledge of the most modern results of scientific study, by its principles and aims. I shall not enlarge upon this subject, except by way of one remark, to avoid the possibility of misunderstanding. Good SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE training in theory, and acquaintance with its latest results, is not identical with being burdened with " preconceived ideas." If a man sets out on an expedition, determined to prove certain hypotheses, if he is incapable of changing his views constantly and casting them off ungrudgingly under the pressure of evidence, needless to say his work will be worthless. But the more problems he brings with him into the field, the more he is in the habit of moulding his theories according to facts, and of seeing facts in their bearing upon theory, the better he is equipped for the work. Preconceived ideas are pernicious in any scientific work, but foreshadowed problems are the main endowment of a scientific thinker, and these problems are first revealed to t he observer by his theoretical studies. In Ethnology the early efforts of B astian, Tylor, Morgan, the German Vdlkerpsychologen have remoulded the older crude information of travellers, missionaries, etc., and have shown us the importance of applying deeper conceptions and discarding crude and misleading ones.* The concept of animism superseded that of " fetichism " or " devil-worship," both meaningless terms. The understanding of the classificatory systems of relationship paved the way for the brilliant, modern researches on native sociology in the field-work of the Cambridge school. The psychological analysis of the German thinkers has brought forth an abundant crop of most valuable information in the results obtained by the recent German expeditions to Africa, South America and the Pacific, while the theoretical works of Frazer, Durkheim and others have already, and will no doubt still for a long time inspire field workers and lead them to new results. The field worker relies entirely upon inspiration from theory. Of course he may be also a theoretical thinker and worker, and there he can draw on himself for stin.ulus. B ut the two functions are separate, and in actual research they have to be separated both in time and conditions of work. As always happens when scientific interest turns towards and begins to labour on a field so far only prospected by the curiosity of amateurs, Ethnology has introduced law and order into what seemed chaotic and freakish. It has transformed f< us the sensational, wild and unaccountable world of According to a useful habit of the terminology of science. I use the word Ethnography for the empirical and descriptive results of the science of Man, and the word Ethnology for speculahve and comparative theories. SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE " savages " i nto a number of well ordered communities, governed by law, behaving and thinking according t o consistent principles. The word " savage," whatever association it might have had originally, connotes ideas of boundless liberty, of irregularity, of something extremely and extraordinarily quaint. In popular thinking, we imagine that the natives live on the bosom of Nature, more or less as they can and like, the prey of irregular, phantasmagoric beliefs and apprehensions. Modern science. on thecontrary, shows that their social institutions have a v ery definite organisation, that they are governed by authority, law and order in their public and personal relations, while the latter are, besides, under the control of extremely complex ties of kinship and clanship. Indeed, we see them entangled in a mesh of duties, functions and privileges which correspond to an elaborate tribal, communal and kinship organisation (see Plate I V). T heir beliefs and practices do not by any means lack consistency of a certain type, and their knowledge of the outer world is sufficient t o guide them in many of their strenuous enterprises and activities. Their artistic productions again lack neither meaning nor beauty. I t is a very far cry from the famous answer given long ago b y a representative authority who, asked, what are the manners and customs of the natives, answered, " Customs none, manners beastly," to the position of the modern Ethnographer I T his latter, with his tables of kinship terms, genealogies, maps, plans and diagrams, proves the existence of an extensive and k g organisation, shows the constitution of the tribe, of the clan, of the family; and he gives us a picture of the natives subjected to a strict code of behaviour and good manners, to which in comparison the life a t the Court of Versailles o r Escurial was free and easy .* Thus the first and basic ideal of ethnographic field-work is to give a clear and firm outline of the social constitution, and disentangle the laws and regularities of all cultural phenomena SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE I. T from the irrelevances. The firm skeleton of the tribal life has to be first ascertained. This ideal imposes in the first place the fundamental obligation of giving a complete survey of the phenomena, and not of picking out the sensational, thesingular, still less the funny and quaint. The time when we could tolerate accounts presenting us the native as a distorted, childish caricature of a human being are gone. This p ictare is false, and like many other falsehoods, it has been killed by Science. The field Ethnographer has seriously and soberly to cover the full extent of the phenomena in each aspect of tribal culture studied, making no difference between what is commonplace, or drab, or ordinary, and what strikes him as astonishing and out-of-the-way. At the same time, the whole area of tribal culture i n all i ts as+ects h as to be gone over in research. The consistency, the law and order which obtain within each aspect make also for joining them into one coherent whole. An Ethnographer who sets out to study only religion, or only technology, or only social organisation cuts out an artificial field for inquiry, and he will be seriously handicapped in his work. The legendary " early authority " who found the natives only w astly and without customs is left behind by a modern write:: who, speaking about the Southern Matsim $th whom he lived and worked in close wntact " f or We teach lawless men to become obedient, many years, says:inhuman men to love, and savage men to change." And again :-" Guided in hia conduct by nothing but his ins$ncts and propemities. and governed by Lawless, inhuman and savage ! " A his unchecked passions. grosser misstatement of the real state of things could not be invented by anyone wishing to parody the Missionary point of $ ew. Quoted from the Rev. C. W . Abel, of the London Missionary Society, Savage Life in New Guinea." no date. i ... d 1 i? k . . ." Having settled this very general rule, let us descend to more detailed consideration of method. The Ethnographer has in the field, according to what has just been said, the duty before him of drawing up all the rules and regularities of tribal life ; all that is permanent and fixed : of giving an anatomy of their culture, of depicting the constitution of their society. But these things, though crystallised a nd set, are nowhere jormulaled. There is no written or explicitly expressed code of laws, and -3 radition, the whole structure of their so ' t he most elusive of all materials; u m v e n in h uman mind or memory the hare these laws to be found definitely formulated. The natives obey the forces and commands of the tribal code, but they do not comprehend them ; exactly as t hey obey their instincts and their impulsec, but could not lay down a single law of psychology. 4 k s - s a a r i t i e s in native institutions are an a utomatic -i.esultaf--interaction of the mental forces of m tradition, a~1~L-8kkcaterial conditions of environment. Exactly as a humble member of any modern institution, SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE " savages " i nto a number of well ordered communities, governed by law, behaving and thinking according t o consistent principles. The word " savage," whatever association it might have had originally, connotes ideas of boundless liberty, of irregularity, of something extremely and extraordinarily quaint. In popular thinking, we imagine that the natives live on the bosom of Nature, more or less as they can and like, the prey of irregular, phantasmagoric beliefs and apprehensions. Modern science. on thecontrary, shows that their social institutions have a v ery definite organisation, that they are governed by authority, law and order in their public and personal relations, while the latter are, besides, under the control of extremely complex ties of kinship and clanship. Indeed, we see them entangled in a mesh of duties, functions and privileges which correspond to an elaborate tribal, communal and kinship organisation (see Plate I V). T heir beliefs and practices do not by any means lack consistency of a certain type, and their knowledge of the outer world is sufficient t o guide them in many of their strenuous enterprises and activities. Their artistic productions again lack neither meaning nor beauty. I t is a very far cry from the famous answer given long ago b y a representative authority who, asked, what are the manners and customs of the natives, answered, " Customs none, manners beastly," to the position of the modern Ethnographer I T his latter, with his tables of kinship terms, genealogies, maps, plans and diagrams, proves the existence of an extensive and k g organisation, shows the constitution of the tribe, of the clan, of the family; and he gives us a picture of the natives subjected to a strict code of behaviour and good manners, to which in comparison the life a t the Court of Versailles o r Escurial was free and easy .* Thus the first and basic ideal of ethnographic field-work is to give a clear and firm outline of the social constitution, and disentangle the laws and regularities of all cultural phenomena SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE I. T from the irrelevances. The firm skeleton of the tribal life has to be first ascertained. This ideal imposes in the first place the fundamental obligation of giving a complete survey of the phenomena, and not of picking out the sensational, thesingular, still less the funny and quaint. The time when we could tolerate accounts presenting us the native as a distorted, childish caricature of a human being are gone. This p ictare is false, and like many other falsehoods, it has been killed by Science. The field Ethnographer has seriously and soberly to cover the full extent of the phenomena in each aspect of tribal culture studied, making no difference between what is commonplace, or drab, or ordinary, and what strikes him as astonishing and out-of-the-way. At the same time, the whole area of tribal culture i n all i ts as+ects h as to be gone over in research. The consistency, the law and order which obtain within each aspect make also for joining them into one coherent whole. An Ethnographer who sets out to study only religion, or only technology, or only social organisation cuts out an artificial field for inquiry, and he will be seriously handicapped in his work. The legendary " early authority " who found the natives only w astly and without customs is left behind by a modern write:: who, speaking about the Southern Matsim $th whom he lived and worked in close wntact " f or We teach lawless men to become obedient, many years, says:inhuman men to love, and savage men to change." And again :-" Guided in hia conduct by nothing but his ins$ncts and propemities. and governed by Lawless, inhuman and savage ! " A his unchecked passions. grosser misstatement of the real state of things could not be invented by anyone wishing to parody the Missionary point of $ ew. Quoted from the Rev. C. W . Abel, of the London Missionary Society, Savage Life in New Guinea." no date. i ... d 1 i? k . . ." Having settled this very general rule, let us descend to more detailed consideration of method. The Ethnographer has in the field, according to what has just been said, the duty before him of drawing up all the rules and regularities of tribal life ; all that is permanent and fixed : of giving an anatomy of their culture, of depicting the constitution of their society. But these things, though crystallised a nd set, are nowhere jormulaled. There is no written or explicitly expressed code of laws, and -3 radition, the whole structure of their so ' t he most elusive of all materials; u m v e n in h uman mind or memory the hare these laws to be found definitely formulated. The natives obey the forces and commands of the tribal code, but they do not comprehend them ; exactly as t hey obey their instincts and their impulsec, but could not lay down a single law of psychology. 4 k s - s a a r i t i e s in native institutions are an a utomatic -i.esultaf--interaction of the mental forces of m tradition, a~1~L-8kkcaterial conditions of environment. Exactly as a humble member of any modern institution, 12 SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE whether it be the state, or the church, or the army, is o i t and f i n i t, but has no vision of the resulting integral action of the whole, still less could furnish any account of its organisation, so it would be futile to attempt questioning a native in abstract, sociological terms. The difference is that, in our society, every institution has its i n t e l l i g e w m , a nd its archives and documents, whereas in a native society there are none of these. After this is realised an expedient has to be found to overcome this difficulty. This expedient for an Ethnographer consists in collecting concrete data of evidence. and drawing the general inferences for himself. This seems obvious on the face of it, but was not found out or at least practised in Ethnography till field work was taken up by men of science. Moreover, in giving it practical effect, it is neither easy to devise the concrete applications of this method, nor to carry them out systematically and consistently. Though we cannot ask a native about abstract, genera: rules, we can always enquire how a given case would be treated. Thus for instance, in asking how they would treat crime, or punish it, it would be vain to put to a native a sweeping question such as, " How do you treat and punish a criminal ? " for even words could not be found to express it in native, or in pidgin. But an imaginary case, or still better, a real occurrence, will stimulate a native to express his opinion and to supply plentiful information. A real case indeed will start the natives on a wave of discussion, evoke expressions of indignation, show them taking sides-all of which talk will probably contain a wealth of definite views, of moral censures, as well as reveal the social mechanism set in motion by the crime committed. From there, i t will be easy to lead them on to speak of other similar cases, to remember other actual occurrences or to discuss them in all their implications and aspects. From this material, which ought to cover the widest possible range of facts, the inference is obtained by simple induction. The scientific t reatment differs from that of good common sense, first in that a student will extend the completeness and minuteness of survey much further and in a pedantically systematic and methodical manner ; a nd secondly, in that the scientifically trained mind, will push the inquiry along really relevant lines, and towards aims possessing real importance. Indeed, the object of scientific training is to provide the 13 empirical investigator with a mental chart, i n accordance with which he can take his bearings and lay his course. To return to our example, a number of definite cases discussed will reveal to the Ethnographer t he social machinery for punishment. This is one part, one aspect of tribal authority. Imagine further that by a similar method of inference from definite data, he arrives at understanding leadership in war, in economic enterprise, in tribal festivities-there he has at once all the data necessary to answer the questions about tribal government and social autharity. I n a ctual field work, the comparison of such data, the attempt to piece them together, will often reveal rifts and gaps in the information which lead on to further investigations. From my own experience, I can say that, very often, a problem seemed settled, everything fixed and clear, till I began to write down a short preliminary sketch of my results. And only then, did I see the enormous deficiencies, which would show me where lay new problems, and lead me on to new work. In fact, I spent a few months between my first and second expeditions, and over a year between that and the subsequent one, in going over all my material, and making parts of it almost ready for publication each time, though each time I knew I would have to re-write it. Such cross-fertilisation of constructive work and observation, I found most valuable, and I do not think I could have made real headway without it. I give this bit of my own history merely to show that what has been said so far is not only an empty programme, but the result of personal experience. In this volume, the description is given of a big institution connected with ever so many associated activities, and presenting many aspects. To anyone who reflects on the subject, it will be dear that the information about a phenomenon of such high complexity and of so many ramifications, could not be obtained with any degree of exactitude and completeness, without a constant interplay of constructive attempts and empirical checking. I n fact, I have written up an outline of t h ~ ~ t i t u t i a t least half a on en times while in the fid-the intervals between my editions. Each time, new problems and difficulties resented themselves. The collecting of concrete data over a wide range of facts is us one of the main points of field method. The obligation SUBJECT, M ETHOD AND SCOPE 12 SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE whether it be the state, or the church, or the army, is o i t and f i n i t, but has no vision of the resulting integral action of the whole, still less could furnish any account of its organisation, so it would be futile to attempt questioning a native in abstract, sociological terms. The difference is that, in our society, every institution has its i n t e l l i g e w m , a nd its archives and documents, whereas in a native society there are none of these. After this is realised an expedient has to be found to overcome this difficulty. This expedient for an Ethnographer consists in collecting concrete data of evidence. and drawing the general inferences for himself. This seems obvious on the face of it, but was not found out or at least practised in Ethnography till field work was taken up by men of science. Moreover, in giving it practical effect, it is neither easy to devise the concrete applications of this method, nor to carry them out systematically and consistently. Though we cannot ask a native about abstract, genera: rules, we can always enquire how a given case would be treated. Thus for instance, in asking how they would treat crime, or punish it, it would be vain to put to a native a sweeping question such as, " How do you treat and punish a criminal ? " for even words could not be found to express it in native, or in pidgin. But an imaginary case, or still better, a real occurrence, will stimulate a native to express his opinion and to supply plentiful information. A real case indeed will start the natives on a wave of discussion, evoke expressions of indignation, show them taking sides-all of which talk will probably contain a wealth of definite views, of moral censures, as well as reveal the social mechanism set in motion by the crime committed. From there, i t will be easy to lead them on to speak of other similar cases, to remember other actual occurrences or to discuss them in all their implications and aspects. From this material, which ought to cover the widest possible range of facts, the inference is obtained by simple induction. The scientific t reatment differs from that of good common sense, first in that a student will extend the completeness and minuteness of survey much further and in a pedantically systematic and methodical manner ; a nd secondly, in that the scientifically trained mind, will push the inquiry along really relevant lines, and towards aims possessing real importance. Indeed, the object of scientific training is to provide the 13 empirical investigator with a mental chart, i n accordance with which he can take his bearings and lay his course. To return to our example, a number of definite cases discussed will reveal to the Ethnographer t he social machinery for punishment. This is one part, one aspect of tribal authority. Imagine further that by a similar method of inference from definite data, he arrives at understanding leadership in war, in economic enterprise, in tribal festivities-there he has at once all the data necessary to answer the questions about tribal government and social autharity. I n a ctual field work, the comparison of such data, the attempt to piece them together, will often reveal rifts and gaps in the information which lead on to further investigations. From my own experience, I can say that, very often, a problem seemed settled, everything fixed and clear, till I began to write down a short preliminary sketch of my results. And only then, did I see the enormous deficiencies, which would show me where lay new problems, and lead me on to new work. In fact, I spent a few months between my first and second expeditions, and over a year between that and the subsequent one, in going over all my material, and making parts of it almost ready for publication each time, though each time I knew I would have to re-write it. Such cross-fertilisation of constructive work and observation, I found most valuable, and I do not think I could have made real headway without it. I give this bit of my own history merely to show that what has been said so far is not only an empty programme, but the result of personal experience. In this volume, the description is given of a big institution connected with ever so many associated activities, and presenting many aspects. To anyone who reflects on the subject, it will be dear that the information about a phenomenon of such high complexity and of so many ramifications, could not be obtained with any degree of exactitude and completeness, without a constant interplay of constructive attempts and empirical checking. I n fact, I have written up an outline of t h ~ ~ t i t u t i a t least half a on en times while in the fid-the intervals between my editions. Each time, new problems and difficulties resented themselves. The collecting of concrete data over a wide range of facts is us one of the main points of field method. The obligation SUBJECT, M ETHOD AND SCOPE SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE is not to enumerate a few examples only, but to exhaust as far as possible all the cases within reach ; a nd, on this search for cases, the investigator w ill score most whose mental chart is clearest. But, whenever the material of the search allows it, this mental chart ought to be transformed into a real one ; i t ought to materialise into a diagram, a plan, an exhaustive, synoptic table of cases. Long since, in all tolerably good modem books on natives, we expect to find a full list or table of kinship terms, which includes all the data relative to it, and does not just pick out a few strange and anom'alous relationships or expressions. In the investigation of kinship, the following up of one relation after another in concrete cases leads naturally to the construction of genealogical tables. Practised already b y t he best early w riten, such as Munzinger, and, if I remember rightly, Kubary, this method has been developed to its fullest extent in the works of Dr. R iven. Again, studying the concrete data of economic transactions, in order to trace the history of a valuable object, and to gauge the nature of its circulation, the principle of completeness and thoroughness would lead t o construct tables of transactions, such as we find in the work of Professor Seligman., I t is in following Professor Seligman's example in this matter that I was able to settle certain of the more difficult and detailed rules of the Kula. The method of reducing information, if possible, into charts or synoptic tables ought to be extended to the study of practically all aspects of native life. All types of economic transactions may be studied by following up connected, actual cases, and putting them into a synoptic chart ; again, a table ought to be drawn up of all the gifts and presents customary in a given society , a table including the sociological, ceremonial, and economicdefinition of every item. Also, systems of magic, connected series of ceremonies, types of legal acts, all could be charted, allowing each entry to be synoptically defined under a number of headings. Besides this, of course, the genealogical census of every community, studied more in detail, extensive maps, plans and diagrams, illustrating ownership in garden land, hunting and fishing privileges, etc., serve as t he more fundamental documents of ethnographic research. A genealogy is nothing else but a synoptic chart of a number For instance, the tables of circulation of the valuable axe blades, op. cit., pp. 5 31. 532. SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 15 of connected relations of kinship. Its value as an instrument of research consists in that it allows the investigator to put questions which he formulates to himself i n abstracto, b ut can put concretely to the native informant. As a document, its value consists in that it gives a number of authenticated data, presented in their natural grouping. A synoptic chart of magic fulfils the same function. As an instrument of research, I have used it in order to ascertain, for instance, the ideas about the nature of magical power. With a chart before me, I could easily and conveniently go over one item after the other, and note down the relevant practices and beliefs contained in each of them. The answer to my abstract problem could then be obtained by drawing a general inference from all the cases, and the procedure is illustrated in Chapters XVII and X VIII.* I cannot enter further into the discussion of this question, which would need further distinctions, such as between a chart of concrete, actual data, such as is a genealogy, and a chart summarising the outlines of a custom or belief, as a chart of a magical system would be. Returning once more to the question of methodological candour, discussed previously in Division 11,I wish to point out here, that the procedure of concrete and tabularised presentation of data ought to be applied first to the Ethnographer's own credentials. That is. an Ethnographer, who wishes to be trusted, must show clearly and concisely, in a tabularised form, which are his own direct observations, and which the indirect information that form the bases of his account. The Table on the next page will serve as a n example of this procedure and help the reader of this book to form an idea of the trustworthiness of any statement he is specially anxious to check. With the help of this Table and the many references scattered throughout the text, as to how, under what circumstances, and with what degree of accuracy I arrived at a given item of knowledge, there will, I hope remain no obscurity whatever as t o the sources of the book. In t i book, besides the adjoining Table, which does not strictly belong hs to the class of document of which I speak here, the reader will find only a few samples of synoptic tables, such a s the list of Kula partners mentioned and analysed in Chapter XIII. Division 11, the list of gifts and p ments in Chapter VI, Division VI, not tabularised. only described ; the synoptic data of a Kula expeditionin Chapter XVI, and the table of Kula magic given in Chapter XVII. Here, I have not wanted to overload the account with charts, etc., preferring to reserve them till the full publication of my material. SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE is not to enumerate a few examples only, but to exhaust as far as possible all the cases within reach ; a nd, on this search for cases, the investigator w ill score most whose mental chart is clearest. But, whenever the material of the search allows it, this mental chart ought to be transformed into a real one ; i t ought to materialise into a diagram, a plan, an exhaustive, synoptic table of cases. Long since, in all tolerably good modem books on natives, we expect to find a full list or table of kinship terms, which includes all the data relative to it, and does not just pick out a few strange and anom'alous relationships or expressions. In the investigation of kinship, the following up of one relation after another in concrete cases leads naturally to the construction of genealogical tables. Practised already b y t he best early w riten, such as Munzinger, and, if I remember rightly, Kubary, this method has been developed to its fullest extent in the works of Dr. R iven. Again, studying the concrete data of economic transactions, in order to trace the history of a valuable object, and to gauge the nature of its circulation, the principle of completeness and thoroughness would lead t o construct tables of transactions, such as we find in the work of Professor Seligman., I t is in following Professor Seligman's example in this matter that I was able to settle certain of the more difficult and detailed rules of the Kula. The method of reducing information, if possible, into charts or synoptic tables ought to be extended to the study of practically all aspects of native life. All types of economic transactions may be studied by following up connected, actual cases, and putting them into a synoptic chart ; again, a table ought to be drawn up of all the gifts and presents customary in a given society , a table including the sociological, ceremonial, and economicdefinition of every item. Also, systems of magic, connected series of ceremonies, types of legal acts, all could be charted, allowing each entry to be synoptically defined under a number of headings. Besides this, of course, the genealogical census of every community, studied more in detail, extensive maps, plans and diagrams, illustrating ownership in garden land, hunting and fishing privileges, etc., serve as t he more fundamental documents of ethnographic research. A genealogy is nothing else but a synoptic chart of a number For instance, the tables of circulation of the valuable axe blades, op. cit., pp. 5 31. 532. SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 15 of connected relations of kinship. Its value as an instrument of research consists in that it allows the investigator to put questions which he formulates to himself i n abstracto, b ut can put concretely to the native informant. As a document, its value consists in that it gives a number of authenticated data, presented in their natural grouping. A synoptic chart of magic fulfils the same function. As an instrument of research, I have used it in order to ascertain, for instance, the ideas about the nature of magical power. With a chart before me, I could easily and conveniently go over one item after the other, and note down the relevant practices and beliefs contained in each of them. The answer to my abstract problem could then be obtained by drawing a general inference from all the cases, and the procedure is illustrated in Chapters XVII and X VIII.* I cannot enter further into the discussion of this question, which would need further distinctions, such as between a chart of concrete, actual data, such as is a genealogy, and a chart summarising the outlines of a custom or belief, as a chart of a magical system would be. Returning once more to the question of methodological candour, discussed previously in Division 11,I wish to point out here, that the procedure of concrete and tabularised presentation of data ought to be applied first to the Ethnographer's own credentials. That is. an Ethnographer, who wishes to be trusted, must show clearly and concisely, in a tabularised form, which are his own direct observations, and which the indirect information that form the bases of his account. The Table on the next page will serve as a n example of this procedure and help the reader of this book to form an idea of the trustworthiness of any statement he is specially anxious to check. With the help of this Table and the many references scattered throughout the text, as to how, under what circumstances, and with what degree of accuracy I arrived at a given item of knowledge, there will, I hope remain no obscurity whatever as t o the sources of the book. In t i book, besides the adjoining Table, which does not strictly belong hs to the class of document of which I speak here, the reader will find only a few samples of synoptic tables, such a s the list of Kula partners mentioned and analysed in Chapter XIII. Division 11, the list of gifts and p ments in Chapter VI, Division VI, not tabularised. only described ; the synoptic data of a Kula expeditionin Chapter XVI, and the table of Kula magic given in Chapter XVII. Here, I have not wanted to overload the account with charts, etc., preferring to reserve them till the full publication of my material. ...
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