Anthropological field work

Anthropological Fieldwork 
When an anthropologist takes under the task of doing fieldwork he or she is taking on an overwhelming amount of obstacles one must overcome in order to record accurate information regarding a specific civilization. He or she must overcome many obstacles such as language, race and culture in order to even start a study on a specific culture. In the films "Shock of the Other" and "Margaret Mead and Samoa" we, as the viewer get to see how these fieldworks are done from a perspective myself, as a student, have never gotten to see before. 
Field Work Writing Assignment When an anthropologist takes under the task of doing fieldwork he or she is taking on an overwhelming amount of obstacles one must overcome in order to record accurate information regarding a specific civilization. He or she must overcome many obstacles such as language, race and culture in order to even start a study on a specific culture. In the films "Shock of the Other" and "Margaret Mead and Samoa" we, as the viewer get to see how these fieldworks are done from a perspective myself, as a student, have never gotten to see before. In both of these films quite "famous" anthropologists the first, Margaret Mead, an American journeyed to the South Pacific territory of Samoa in 1925 to do her fieldwork. The other anthropologist David Maybury-Lewis who was born in Hyderabad, Pakistan in 1929 and immigrated to the United States in 1960 was the primary anthropologist in the film "Shock of the Other" traveled to the Amazon River Basin in order to study the drastically primitive civilizations such as the MaschoPiro who basically remain hidden from the outside world. When an anthropologist does fieldwork there are many advantages and disadvantages. One thing an anthropologist must do in order to gain a rewarding experience during his trip to visit another civilization in figuring out the best was to proceed into the certain field he or she is studying. The anthropologist must at first be somewhat familiar with the culture of the area or civilization. (Culture-The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.) They must be somewhat familiar with the language of a particular area as well. If one is very unfamiliar with the language it makes it exceptionally difficult because other than body language there is no other mode of communication. In most societies communication is very import and is the most effective mode to transfer ideas from one individual to another. If there is a so-called "language barrier" it makes doing fieldwork exceptionally difficult. Another obstacle that the anthropologist must overcome is the difference of traditions and religion between his or her background and that of the civilization that is being studied. In order for the people being studied to trust the anthropologist the people must gain a sense of trust. In many cases this trust is achieved by the anthropologists understanding and acceptance of the people's particular traditions and religious beliefs. Another thing the anthropologist must overcome in order to gain accurate information during fieldwork is the difference in looks between the anthropologist and the people being studied. In many cases the biggest thing that is a "barrier" is the way people look. Many times people will judge others simply based on how they look. For example is some primitive culture that lives in the jungle had his tribe's village ripped down by white people in order to build something, a member of that tribe may think that all white people are bad and want to destroy their habitat. On the other hand there are many advantages to doing fieldwork that make for a very rewarding experience once the "culture barrier" is overcome. One advantage is that one gains an a lot more from a culture when you are "immersed" in the particular culture. You can study a culture in books, look at pictures, and watch a movie about an area but it is absolutely nothing like actually being there. You can actually talk to people that live in the culture, attend their religious ceremonies, and see basically how they live on a day to day basis. When one watches a movie or reads a book you get to see the area the way that someone else wants you to see it, not necessarily the way you would see it. When you do fieldwork you can also go to neighboring areas and see how they live as well. You can see how the climate and landscape effect the civilization and how they interact with it. Margaret Mead did her first fieldwork in 1925 when she was only twenty-three to the South Pacific territory of Samoa. Being that she had done this fieldwork over seventy-five years ago, I believe that many things have changed since then. For example, it may not be as easy now to "integrate" into a society. The culture may not welcome you as much with open arms because in the last century many civilizations have been eradicated by "white people" both by disease and by the destruction of their habitats. Being that many cultures have been "raped by the white man" many tribes have a less that good feelings towards white people with good reason. The fact that many of their forefathers had been killed by these so called visitors I have no blame for them not welcoming anthropologists into their civilization. In this aspect I believe that the process and outcome has changed drastically since Margaret Mead's time in the field. As a new student to the field of Anthropology, Margaret Mead's fieldwork and research gives an insight to an otherwise unknown area for me, as a "novice" in the discipline. The fact that someone would go to an entirely "uncharted" area with little prior knowledge to study a civilization is a huge undertaking. The amount of money and time Margaret Mead must have put forth in order to study the Samoans must be greater than substantial. I think it is amazing that one could dedicate their entire life to studying cultures that otherwise no one would ever know about (in the North-Western Hemisphere). The fact that her life work is a single trip to the south pacific astonishes me and is otherwise very interesting. This film is a first look for me into a place that I have never seen before. It sheds a new light onto an otherwise dark area of a culture that is so primitive it resembles that of pre-historic times. To be able to look at that from the safety of a classroom in 2005 and to be able to look at them in their environment is a priceless thing in itself. Margaret Mead first visited Samoa under the vision of Frans Bois. During her study she lived on a Naval Base with an American Family in a basically American household. She went there to study the development of adolescent females within the Samoan Culture(Samoa 1)During her study she compared the sexual promiscuity of these teenage girls in Samoa to those of American girls. During her time there she quickly realized that the girls in this civilization were very "sexually oriented" at a very young age and because intimate with more than one partner during their adolescence. This study consisted of 25 girls whose identities were all concealed in her book "Coming of Age in Samoa" which was published in 1928. This book was basically a "tell-all" about what she had observed while she was in Samoa. In this book she spoke about how the Samoan People did not show real bonds or relationships with anyone that in our culture would. (Cassidy 25)There was no real bond between parent and child, or even between lovers. Her findings were then later questioned by an anthropologist by the name of Derek Freeman. Freeman, also a young anthropologist, visited Samoa around the same period as Mead and found that Mead's conclusions regarding the sex life of the Samoan adolescent girls to be quite wrong. He found the Samoans to be very religious people and the absolute opposite of what Mead had stated in her book "Coming of Age in Samoa." He believe that the young Samoan women were being like most young girls are, sarcastic and said all the things to Mead about their sex lives in a very teasing manner. Freeman says that Mead took the girls totally out of context and that she did not understand that fact that they were joking around and basically lying to her. He then published a book called "Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth" in which he bashed Meads research in almost any way imaginable. He took a very strong stance against her findings and found he own research to be much more rigorous and accurate. The debate between these two (Mead and Freeman) still goes on to this day. Another noteworthy anthropologist that did a great deal of fieldwork was David Maybury-Lewis. He visited the Amazon River Basin in South America. In the film, "Shock of the Other" we see how his trip goes and what happens during his voyage into the deep jungles of South America in order to find a group of people called the MaschoPiro who are an incredibly primitive society by today's measures. These people are mostly unclothed and rarely seen by any "outsiders: they are very simple people who stay to themselves. In his film Maybury-Lewis takes a trip down the Pinkenf ("?") River in order to see and photograph the people he sees along the way as well as his main objective, the MaschoPiro. After the entire group of people (Camera people, producers, anthropologists, directors, etc) gets top the area they find out that the Indian Organization that basically governs that area to a certain extent will not allow them to get close to the MaschoPiro people and are not allowed to photograph them either. In respect to their wishes Maybury-Lewis and his crew do not interact with the people at all but only photograph them from a large distance, still on the boat, with a long shot lens. The three women they see on the river bed seem to be just "hanging out" but anthropologists believe that they are "keeping watch" for the tribe and are the first line of defense for this diminishing tribe. These seemingly harmless women are actually guards and will alarm the tribe members of any intruders. Another anthropologist that I would like to mention is Ken Erickson. Erickson, in 1988, working for U.S. & World Report worked for months as a butcher in a slaughterhouse learning how to slice, chop, and cut meat(Lenkeit 55). He was looking into why there was a wildcat strike and the upper-level managers had thought it was because of the language barriers between management and the workers. After working there for a while Erickson found out that the language barrier had little or no impact on the issue and the fact that the managers spoke to the workers like they were stupid and very uneducated was the real issue at hand. The workers felt they deserved a little more respect for their work and skill they put into the trade. His fieldwork in the slaughterhouses resulted in new more revised training programs. I believe that Erickson did many things the way Mead and Maybury-Lewis did. One thing they did the same is that they both immersed themselves in the "world" they were studying. They did not sit at home reading books on the topic, the actually went to the place that needed to be researched and did the research. They also are similar because their findings were published. Mead wrote a book and Erickson published his findings in the U.S. News & World Report which are both very good ways to get your findings across to the reader. I believe both did a good job of "becoming" the culture being studied and getting a real close view at what was really occurring. I think Erickson had a good experience in the field because the end result brought out a change. He felt something was wrong, did research on the topic, and brought about a change. As I am sure the anthropologist did not have a "good time" cutting meat I bet he considered his fieldwork a success based solely on the fact that he brought about a change for the good of the people working for the slaughterhouse. In conclusion, I believe that fieldwork is a very important and vital part of accurate anthropological research and must be done in order to really get a "feel" for a civilization. I think both Mead and Maybury-Lewis did a good job in bringing us information about cultures in which we have little or no knowledge in a seeming unbiased view. I commend these scientists for being so brave and courageous as to go into a culture where they are the "other" and be able to give us information on what happens in areas of the world we don't see on a regular basis. Works Cited Cassidy, Robert "Margaret Mead: A Voice for the Century" Pgs 22-41, Universe Books 1982 Lenkeit, Roberta Edwards "Introducing Cultural Anthropology" Pg 55, McGraw-Hill 2004 "Samoa: The Adolescent Girl", Unknown,, 2003

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