Table of Contents
Emic and etic descriptions
Emic and etic descriptions
ANTH 1001: Introduction to anthropology
Wednesday, March 18, 2020 (Week 4)
Available at http://anthro.rschram.org/1001/2020/2.1.2
Thomas Hylland Eriksen “Fieldwork and Ethnography,” in Small Places, Large Issues: An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology (London: Pluto Press, 2015), 32–51.
The story of “fieldwork”: Malinowski in the Trobriands
- W. H. R. Rivers and expeditionary methods (e.g. Rivers 1914)
- Survey questionnaires and diffusionist hypotheses
- Salvage ethnography
- Bronislaw Malinowski and the Cambridge expedition of 1914 (Malinowski  1932, especially pages 1-25)
- Immersion in one place
- First-hand observation of actual happenings
- Imponderabilia of everyday life and typical pattern of behavior
- Key words, technical terms, verbatim quotations
Another story of fieldwork: Layard on Atchin
- Rivers and John W. Layard on Atchin (Tsan) island in the New Hebrides islands (today in Malakula, Vanuatu) (Layard 1942)
- Abandoned by Rivers, who got frustrated
- Left alone to make friends
- Adopted by another outsider: Mari
- Participated in a big collective project: The revival of the Maki
Yet another story of fieldwork: Gomberg-Muñoz and The Lions
- Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz wanted to understand the ways in which undocumented immigrants from Mexico made a living in Chicago (Gomberg-Muñoz 2011)
- Met with her fellow workers separately and in social occasions outside of work
- Worked in a restaurant, as a waitress, not a busboy
- At work, she used “head notes” and expanded on them after hours
- Work in the restaurant is “The Busboy Show” (Gomberg-Muñoz 2010)
- Her informants (that is, research subjects), their restaurant, and the collective name for them are all pseudonyms
I did ultimately conduct a household survey about people’s gardens, food, and income.
I thought my questions were quite simple. I wanted to ask
- Who were members of the household?
- What kinds of food did people grow?
- What did they do to earn money?
Even what I thought was basic was actually more complex
- Garden: oya, or yaheyahe (or, yaʻwayaʻwala)?
- Family and/or household: susu (but this concept also refers to a matrilineage).
Learning how to ask
I had to learn to listen before asking.
But if I only listened, then a lot of what I needed to know would remain unstated, so I had to ask.
- Example: tetela (lineage history)
Fieldwork methods are all based on an ongoing conversation between the outsider and the insider.
Ethnography is a a form of writing that cultural anthropologists use to help people understand a way of life as a cultural system.
An ethnography is (usually) a book written by someone who has conducted participant-observation fieldwork
Ethnographic writing must always balance emic and etic descriptions.
- Phonetic transcription is a spelling of a word as it sounds
- ˈhyʋæː ˈpæi̯ʋæː
- Phonemic transcription is a spelling of a word using the basic sounds of a specific language
- hyvää päivää
For Mel Spiro, anthropology makes what is “familiar strange” and what is “strange familiar” by moving from a particular cultural worldview to a “third set of concepts — that, anthropological concepts” which try to be neutral (Spiro 1990, 49). This third position is the etic perspective.
Analytic and synthetic perspectives
etic is to emic as analysis is to synthesis
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oral historical narrative describing a lineage’s founding, migration, and descent
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