Vps social research and fieldwork tradition


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Vps social research and fieldwork tradition

  1. 1. UGC ACADEMIC STAFF COLLEGE, RANCHI. December, 17th 2011 Lecture by Dr. Vijay Prakash Sharma Senior Advisor. USAID Projects
  2. 2. One major goal of fieldwork is to understand the systems of meaning on which a culture operates. Human beings unlike other species live in a culturally constructed world of meanings. Nothing makes sense in a human world apart from the meaning that is ascribed to it by culture. Humans are least guided by their genetic characters, all interpreted by culture to mean some thing or the other in different societies. Thus even things as basic as what is edible, what is animate and what is inanimate, what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman, how does one understand ageing, all these are culture specific.
  3. 3. "Anthropology demands the open-mindedness with which one must look and listen, record in astonishment and wonder at that which one would not have been able to guess" Anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978) “The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences” Anthropologist Ruth Benedict (1887-1948) “Anthropology is the most humanistic of sciences and the most scientific of the humanities” Anthropologist Alfred L . Kroeber (1876-1960)
  4. 4. The term ‘fieldwork’ is used to describe research in all areas of research from social and cultural to medical or biological. The practice of ‘fieldwork’ can be done in a variety of different settings such as an urban or virtual environment, a small tribal community, a museum, library, cultural institution, business, or a primate conservation area.
  5. 5. There is a general consensus amongst anthropologists today that fieldwork came to be considered part of the practice of social anthropology with the work of one of the founding fathers of British anthropology, Bronislaw Malinowski. Malinowski advocated, instead of studying other peoples from the comfort of university libraries, going ‘into the field’: that is, living with the people he was studying, engaging in their community, learning their language, eating their food, and taking part in their everyday life. Since Malinowski’s time, fieldwork – traditionally, away from one’s own society – has been regarded as an essential and necessary part of an anthropologist’s professional training. Fieldwork over an extended period – typically 1-2 years - has been thought of as particular to social anthropology, and part of what distinguishes the discipline from other social sciences. Today, some anthropologists still consider that doing fieldwork in the traditional Malinowskian sense is an essential and distinguishing aspect of anthropological research.
  6. 6. Fieldwork can take many different forms, shaped by factors such as: the topic of investigation, questions guiding the research, where the research will be carried out, who is funding it, external political or economic factors, the age, sex or ethnicity of the researcher, the technological facilities available. Newer formats for research, such as use of multiple sites and the study of large-scale centres of power such as intergovernmental organisations, are becoming increasingly common; as is the use of visual technologies and methods of presentation such as film, photography and digital media.
  7. 7. Fieldwork is among the most distinctive practices anthropologists bring to the study of human life in society. Through fieldwork, the social anthropologist seeks a detailed and intimate understanding of the context of social action and relations. Fieldwork in a previously unfamiliar setting has among its aims a deep understanding that encompasses as much as possible of an ‘insider’s’ perspective. Conducted in a more familiar setting, it can lead the anthropologist – and those for whom he or she writes – to look at everyday reality in new and unexpected ways. Where fieldwork is conducted within museums, archives, or cultural institutions, the process can be similar in that the social anthropologist seeks to understand the underlying symbolic and cultural meanings of a text, or a collection of objects. Equally, biological anthropologists frequently base research projects on human remains or artefacts held in museum collections.
  8. 8. Social researcher may assemble data in numerous ways. They may gather quantitative information by conducting surveys or analysing records such as historical archives, government reports and censuses. Quantitative data is often useful for biological anthropologists in mapping physical traits within a population, or making cross- population comparisons. Quantitative information is also useful and often necessary for interdisciplinary projects with other specialists. However, for the most part social anthropologists concentrate on gathering qualitative data. They do so by conducting individual and group interviews, by undertaking oral histories, through online discussion forums and, most importantly, through the Malinowskian tradition of ‘participant observation’.
  9. 9. Participant observation enables the social researcher to undertake detailed, lengthy and often complex observations of social life in fine detail. It may be directed to such disparate groups as a virtual network, a tribal village, or an activist group in an urban environment. By participating in the fabric of daily life as well as more formal ceremonies and rituals, and discussing his/her developing ideas with willing members of the community (sometimes termed ‘informants’) the fieldworker builds up a progressively deeper understanding of what is happening. Many fieldworkers find this a personally transforming experience.
  10. 10. Social researcher may write up their data in reports, articles, or journal contributions. Where the project is interdisciplinary or team-based, these may be co-authored. Alternatively, they may describe their experiences and findings in the form of an ethnography. Courtesey: RAI
  11. 11. •LH Morgan did his own field work among Iroquis which led to his book League of the Iroquis in 1951. •Franz Boas in America and Malinowski in Great Britain set up field work tradition in social research among the primitive cultures towards the beginning of 20th century.
  12. 12. •Malinowski stayed in Australia for six years and made three extensive field work- •One to Mailu in 1915 •Two to Trobriand Islands -1915-16 and 1917-18. •He lived like a native. •He further made study in US – Zapotec of Mexico -1940-41.
  13. 13. • In India, ARR Brown conducted fieldwork in Andman islands in 1921 and published the book “The Andman Islanders” in 1922. •This study represents a landmark in ethnographic achievement. •This was the first attempt by a Social anthropologist to describe the social life of a primitive society in such a manner as to represent a test of current theory of primitive society.
  14. 14. •FRANZ BOAS trained A.L.KROEBER, R.H.LOWIE, M.J. HERSKOVITS, MARGRATE MEAD, RUTH BENEDICT, CLARK WISSLER etc in fieldwork and sent them to field. •These modern masters- Boas, Radcliffe-Brown, Malinowski FOUNDED THE TRADITION OF FIELD WORK in social Research.
  15. 15. Since 1986, Field work has been included in curricula of all social research disciplines and management as an essential tool in conducting qualitative researches. It includes following Tools & techniques of data collection- 1. Ethnography 2. Focus group discussion(FGD) 3. Observation 4. Key informant interview 5. Case study.
  16. 16. Fieldwork by non- anthropologists Non-anthropologists such as doctors and even engineers also use fieldwork techniques when they need to interact with people. The role of anthropologist in implementing policies and projects where people are involved has been recognized to the extent that now a –days there can be no project that does not require having an anthropologist as advisor on its panel. The empathetic understanding gained through fieldwork is the only manner in which a humanistic approach can be ensured.
  17. 17. Ethnography: Is a study conducted at a single point in time, ignoring historical factors. An ethnologist is a historian-uninfluenced by any bias for or against historical regularities, as an ethnographer, we shall attempt to determine what are the facts and what has been their actual sequence.
  18. 18. Ethnography: Today the concept of multi- sited ethnography is becoming a necessity to study complex social phenomenon. The notion of a bounded system is now realized to be unrealistic and therefore the kind of systemic relationships visualized by the structural – functional school is become obsolete. Moreover fieldwork itself is transforming its character and we have transnational societies, diasporas and the notion of a “global village” that makes the isolated study of any field area both unrealistic as well as unfruitful.