To argue that an anthropologist simply does or does not bring his or her own personal experiences into their ethnography is an insufficient claim. It is only natural to convey one’s background and experiences into one’s ethnographic work. Whether it is scientifically based or socially based, the life experience and personal disposition of any social scientist is bound to have an influence on his or her work. In this essay I will be comparing two ethnographies of the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea: Bronislaw Malinowski’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific and Annette B Weiner’s Women of Value, Men of Renown.
Malinowski was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Poland) to an upper-middle class family in 1884. His father was a professor and his mother hailed from a land-owning family. Weiner was born in Philadelphia in 1933, eleven years after Malinowski’s groundbreaking work was published. Weiner initially set out to study the styles of traditional and contemporary wood carvings. This changed on her first day on the ground as she became aware of the overwhelmingly-explicit female exchange system. The redirection of her fieldwork resulted in her considering addressing the female exchange systems that Malinowski seemed to have overlooked, and at the same time, critiquing him, yet adding the female role in Trobriand kinship and society, political economy and Kula exchange.
Malinowski employed a bio-psychological functionalist method in his research; it is much more of an emotional functionalist perspective that pays close attention to the individual in society as opposed to placing society above the individual. It is much more of a personal approach compared to a structural functionalism, seen in the works of Radcliffe-Brown. It is a branch of functionalism that does not put emphasis on society, but rather the... [continues]
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(2011, 04). In What Way Does an Anthropologist’s Personal Background and Subjective Experience in Fieldwork Influence His or Her Ethnographic Writing?. StudyMode.com. Retrieved 04, 2011, from http://www.studymode.com/essays/In-What-Way-Does-An-Anthropologist-s-653859.html
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