The aim of this paper is to explore some of the methodological problems faced by “native” anthropologists; in other words someone who studies his or her own culture. A good example is that an individual from, what is generally called the western culture (a Westerner) can study his or her own culture and thus, by definition, be a “native anthropologist” . I focus my attention in this essay on anthropologists from previously colonised societies, also called the Third World (Thapan, 1998).
One recurrent work discussed by anthropologists while referring to this topic is Narayan’s contribution: ‘How native is a “native” anthropologist?’ which constitutes the major part of this essay. Half-Indian and half-American, Narayan questions her own position as a native anthropologist, caught between academic research and her roots. Narayan discusses the issue of the
‘self’ identity which is at the same time is that of the ‘other’, agreeing with Abu-Lughod, who presents the issues encountered by native anthropologists and feminists in order to understand how the ‘self’ is constructed in relation to the other. This struggle between identity and academic enquiry results in issues confronting the audience and the representation of one’s own society. It is commonly accepted that the discipline of Anthropology is partly based on the study of the other, born from Post-Colonialism, where the western seeks to study the exotic lands, the colonised civilisations, or the others. Thus, it was originally Western anthropologists that study the colonised civilisations. However, global flows in politics, trade, media and migration have shaped the interrelations between the West and the ‘others’ long since the age of Colonialism. Increasingly in recent years, the ‘others’ have started to receive anthropological training, thus becoming what we would call their own ‘native’ anthropologists, or” halfies”. In a
Bibliography: Abu-Lughod, Lila (1991) Writing Against Culture, in Recapturing Anthropology Haraway, Donna. 1991. Simians, Cyborgs and Women. Mascarenhas-Keyes, Stella (1987:191) The native anthropologist, in Jackson, A. Anthropology at home. Narayan, Kirin (1998) How native is a "native" anthropologist?, in Thapan, M. Anthropological Journeys: reflections of fieldwork. Thapan, Meenakshi (1998) Anthropological Journeys: Reflections on Fieldwork.