Student Fieldwork: Anthropology


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A simple introduction to fieldwork for beginners in anthropology drawing on a students previous experience.

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Student Fieldwork: Anthropology

  1. 1. Before we begin...● 2012 graduate in Social Anthropology● 1st class honours, 80% in dissertation● Dissertation online at● Audience: 25 bound copies, 110 views online, 56 downloads● To do: put on kindle, submit article to journal, translate into Turkish & give to participants In comparison: Only one other fieldwork based dissertation was done in 2012, which also received a 1st.
  2. 2. Anthropological Fieldwork..... Whats this all about?
  3. 3. This evening we are going to:● Look at a practical summary of how I did it, and analyse● Brainstorm with the help of this to highlight questions and queries to be addressed● Discuss and bring up challenges I encountered● Complementary ways of writing it up (sharing research).● Dont just leave it! Visions for enlivening research● Final thought and helpful resources
  4. 4. Activity Highlight/Underline what you want to bring up in discussionIf you want you can colour code what resonates with youyellow what you are unsure aboutred what doesnt sit well with you Just think positive – unsure – negative in whatever way you want! Any questions
  5. 5. Explore through mind-map brainstorming
  6. 6. Challenges encountered that we may not have covered?● In your own experiences of fieldwork/fieldwork-like situations what challenges did you find?● Deciding what to do and where to do it● Deciding what to focus on● Speaking the language even when you can partly speak it● Planning my time● Explaining who I was● Spending money and staying places● Promises and negotiations● Filming, recording, taking notes,● Organisation and formative assessment● Writing up, transcribing and the real hard work● It is most definitely worth it in every way, most important is recognise your motivation and stay focussed with it even when distractions appear, put them aside till after.
  7. 7. Sharing Research Ethnographic work mainly comes in the form of textual monographs and journal articles. However video and photography as medium are also pervasive. Other complementary forms that usually mix with this are diagrams, tables, graphs, and audio. However these can be combined in different ways, and can also include kinestetic (bodily/theatrical) description. The following are some interesting examples of different areas of inscription as part of the fieldwork process and/or ethnography. They are not all anthropology per se, but have intrigiung approaches to the human subject (please see links for examples):● Karl Marxs A Workers Inquiry- (1938)● Bronislow Malinowskis A diary in the strict sense of the term – (1914-18, pub. 1967)● Roderick Coovers Cinescapes (Digital collages) - &● Graphic novels & &● WHR Rivers Kinship diagrams (1898) -● Network analysis and visualisation –, &● Para-sites - My opinion is to use whatever medium is most applicable to the topic (NOT vica versa) and secondarily use a medium that you have skill or can develop the skill in using. Note: A valid criticism of my work was that perhaps I fitted the data to my visual conceptual model rather than more accurately doing the opposite. If you will you should adapt the -graphic to the ethno- more than the ethno- to the -graphic
  8. 8. If anthropology cannot be put to service as a tool forhuman liberation why are we bothering with it at all?(Nancy Scheper-Hughes)Anthropologists go about this in different ways. As a student you cananswer this question in your own way to your own extent, and it alsodepends on your participants. e.g. I explained to the participants in mydissertation as much as I could offer, which was to do justice to their wayof life and story and provide them with a translated copy. A basic template I am building over time that explains my own particular vision of how I wish to develop further in doing anthropology and overcome and applied/academic alienation.
  9. 9. Final thought from old Atif & Bringa..only two weeks before I was to return to London, old Atif told me: "when youget back among those people, tell them about us and what you have learnedamong us. But when you are here among people who know better than you, donot speak but listen." While later trying to write this book in the midst of thehorrors of war and the tremendous suffering of most of the people who appearin it, I have kept the old mans words in my heart. I can only strive, given mylimitations, to be worthy of the trust of old Atif. As an outsider there is a limit tomy understanding of his community. In advising how to avoid being drawn intovillage intrigues, the local hodza (Islamic instructor) reminded me that there wasa limit to my friendship with and understanding of Muslims. Ultimately I was notone of them, I was not a Muslim. Furthermore, he warned, always remember thatpeople do one thing, say another, and think a third. Since the anthropologistrarely gets access to all three versions from the same person, the above warningis also valid for the reader of this ethnographic account.
  10. 10. Resources● Shane the Lone Ethnographer: A Beginners Guide to Ethnography – Graphic Novel● MIT Anthropology course materials, Seminar on fieldwork● Previous graduates dissertations – print copies can be borrowed from Caroline Grundy at reception● Caught by the Shore: Fish, Fishing, & Fishers in Turkish Cyprus – online version of my dissertation with notes on fieldwork● Search the web, there are 100s of articles on fieldwork and ethnography!!!● YOU are your main resource and tool in fieldwork, the most sophisticated sensor possible!
  11. 11. Fieldworkers best friends :)ContinuallyrevisedQuestions toask, patience &persistence,politeness &assertiveness,respect, &bowels for a lotof turkishcoffee!!!
  12. 12. “ [sic] In moving from experience of social life to conceptualization and intellectual history, I followthe path of anthropologists almost everywhere. Although we take theories into the field with us,these become relevant only if and when they illuminate social reality. Moreover, we tend to findvery frequently that it is not a theorist’s whole system which so illuminates, but his scattered ideas,his flashes of insight taken out of systemic context and applied to scattered data. Such ideas have avirtue of their own and may generate new hypotheses. They even show how scattered facts may besystematically connected! Randomly distributed through some monstrous logical system, theyresemble nourishing raisins in a cellular mass of inedible dough. The intuitions, not the tissue of logicconnecting them, are what tend to survive in the field experience” (Turner, 1974:23).
  13. 13. In case your wondering Why?Ethnographic Fieldwork is deeply scientificwhen applied well in the sense that it isholistic and systemic, and you can also makeit trans-disciplinary if you want.Do it and it makes more sense, as will thebigger questions I posted on the facebookevent -