Ethnology and Ethnography

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Dana Trippe
Anthropology Essay #2
10/1/2012
There are two major approaches to collecting information about human culture: ethnography and ethnology. Each approach has a specific goal. Each approach employs a variety of methods for data collection and analysis, all of which carry benefits but also challenges. Along with the challenges of data collection, field anthropologists face an additional set of logistical, emotional, and ethical obstacles. Anthropology is a difficult field but provides an important perspective on cultural diversity. Ethnography and Ethnology both attempt at reaching certain goals. Ethnography is a written description of a culture based on data gathered from fieldwork, characterized by two methods, participant observation and interviews. When an anthropologist is researching through participant observation, they are attempting to study a culture while still trying to maintain the eye of an objective observer. Another form of getting data for ethnography is through interviews. Through interviews, either formal or informal, the anthropologist is attempting to gather and collect notable data. Formal interviews are more scripted and reduce the situational bias the anthropologists may experience. Informal interviews are more open ended questions that allow the informant to talk about what they think is more important in their culture. These interviews can help paint a more actual description of culture of what their beliefs and lifestyles are, instead of an "ideal culture". Sterk stated that the interviewer becomes much more involved in the interview when conversations are in-depth, more than when a structured questionnaire is being used (Sterk 2000: 27). Compared to ethnography, the study of single groups through direct contact with the culture, ethnology takes the research that ethnographers have compiled and then compares and contrasts different cultures. Ethnology is the comparative study of cultures with the aim of presenting analytical generalizations about human culture. Anthropologists do not rely on data from just one study to make interpretive statements about human conditions (Lenkeit: 16). Ethnology also uses forms of quantification, to help make their data easily comparable, and recordable. Ethnography employs two methods of research, participant observation and interviews. . This method can give an accurate view of the culture from an insider’s perspective. To truly discover the bits and pieces of a culture, subculture, or micro culture, one must commit to spending extensive time in that cultural environment (Lenkeit: 13). In the field, anthropologists can also deal with daily challenges. These challenges can include food problems, safety and health issues, , culture shock, and are also very prone to catching diseases (Lenkeit 2012: 56). Napoleon Chagnon endured an incident with his health while doing fieldwork with the Yonomamo people of Southern Venezuela. Chagnon recounted that he reacted violently to something in the field, and red welts appeared all over his body. He was weak, nauseated, thirsty, and couldn’t breathe well. The pain was rough but it can be something most anthropologists will experience in the field." (Chagnon 1974: 174) In American culture, privacy is something people expect to have, and may even take for granted. Martha Ward reported her work with the people of Pohnpeian as a constant challenge. She said that privacy is a bad word in Pohnpeian, but she craved privacy like a physical ache and lusted to be alone (Lenkeit 2012: 56). Chagnon also yearned for privacy while in the field. He said the hardest thing to learn to live with was the incessant and often aggressive demands and threats they would make. Chagnon recounted that day and night for almost the entire time he lived with the Yanomamo, he was plagued by such demands as: ‘If you don’t take me with you on your next trip to Widokaiyateri, I’ll chop a hole in your canoe!’ and ‘Give me an ax or I’ll...
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