Monday, September 6, 2010

Essay on Ethnographic Techniques

Essay on Ethnographic Techniques

The four basic ethnographic techniques that we discussed in class were participant-observation, conversation and interviewing, genealogical method, and key cultural consultants. The participant-observation technique involves the anthropologist taking part in the group’s daily behaviors while making observations on their daily life. The conversation and interviewing technique can vary in its formality but involves the anthropologist actually engaging various members of the group in conversation or interviews to learn about their lifestyle and point of view. The genealogical method uses kinship studies to gain knowledge about a certain group of people. Finally, the key cultural consultant technique involves going to a specific member in a society to get specific information. For example to find out what it is like to be an elder in a tribe, you would speak to an elder and not to a teenage.

No matter what technique the anthropologist uses, he should maintain a positive, non-judgmental mindset while examining a culture. This concept is referred to as Cultural relativism. Under this concept, a society is interpreted in terms of its own practices and values.

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In using, the ethnographic techniques there are some related terms and concepts that should be defined, such as ethnocentricism, naпve realism, emic and etic viewpoints, tactic vs. explict knowledge, and symbolic interactionism. Ethnocentricism is the practice of judging another society by the values and standards of your own society. Naпve Realism is the concept that reality is much the same for all people everywhere.

The emic viewpoint assumes that the native being questioned is the greatest authority in his culture and of the behavior being demonstrated. While the etic viewpoint assumes that, the underlying motives for the behaviors are not always known to the natives but are based on material or economic reasons. Tactic knowledge is information that we do not know that we know. Explict knowledge on the other hand is what we do know and share with others. The last term, symbolic interactionism is defined as human behavior being seen in terms of symbolic meaning. A good anthropologist should try to avoid using ethnocentrism and naпve realism in his observations. However, he should try to use emic and etic viewpoints to help develop a full picture of what is going on around him. He should also be aware of explict knowledge, tacit knowledge, and symbolic interactionism because they reveal how we process data.

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