Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Meredith Dorner
Adopted from Professors Cesareo-Silva and Garcia

Fieldwork Research Assignment and Mini-Ethnography

This assignment involves several components:
•    A Bibliography based on preliminary library and internet research.
•    A fieldwork component in which you will engage in participant-observation, the most common technique employed by anthropologists.  You will be submitting your field notes from this as well.
•     Continued library and internet research.
•    A mini-ethnography of the culture you studied.

I.  Research Proposal
1. The first thing you need to do is select a culture to investigate.  Because you will also be required to attend some kind of event or activity in order to conduct your fieldwork (see  below), you must chose a culture that is locally based.  Some examples include:
a. Persian community
b. Muslims
c. Hare Krishnas
d. Disabled People
e. The Gay Community in Orange County
f. Goths or Vampires

2. Go to the library or do online research based on the techniques you learned in class and  locate some articles and/or books dealing with your culture.  The number of library  sources (books and articles) that you use should be greater than the number of web  sites by 2 to 1.  Articles obtained through internet sources such as ProQuest, however, are considered library sources.

3. Compile a bibliography of your sources.  You should have at least four citations on your  initial bibliography.  Your sources should be listed in alphabetical order using the following conventions:

Livingstone, Frank 1962  “On the Non-Existence of Human Races.”  In Current Anthropology 3:641-655.

Montagu, Ashley 1997  Man’s Most Dangerous Myth:  The Fallacy of Race.  New York:  AltaMira Press.


NOTE:  While you may look at encyclopedias as you research your culture, they should
not be included in the bibliography or counted as a source.

4. Use this information that you have gathered to help guide you in the next part of the assignment.

II.  Participant-Observation
As part of your Mini-Ethnography, you are required to engage in field research.   The most common field method employed by anthropologists is participant-observation, a technique  that requires you to simultaneously be an insider (participant) and an outsider (observer).

In order to accomplish this, you should attend, observe and participate in an organized ritual or event from your chosen culture; take detailed notes on your observations; and write up a descriptive account and analysis.

The Setting of Your Research
You may observe any event with a fixed time and location that is open to the public.  Examples include a religious service, a wedding ceremony, a club meeting, etc.  Most casual gatherings can also work, but it is more difficult to engage in participant-observation under these conditions.

The Research Methodology, or How to Conduct Your Research
1. Time Frame:  You should attempt to stay for the entirety of the event you choose.  This way you will be able to see both opening and closing rituals and behaviors.  If there is no set beginning or end, you should aim to stay for approximately 2 hours.

2. Adopt an Outsider Stance:  This is key to this exercise.  It is very important for you to try to adopt a naïve attitude.  In other words, do not take anything for granted based on what you think you might know about the situation.  You must try to set aside your assumptions and prejudices.  It often helps to pretend that you are from a completely different culture and have no idea what is going on.  Your descriptions, generalizations, and conclusions should come from your observations.

3. Observe Everything:  The essence of participant-observation is to observe EVERYTHING!  This can be very tiring, so you should choose an event that is no longer than two hours in duration.  Notice especially the space, time, and people:
• Space:  What is the geography of the setting?  How big is it?  Is it one big space, or is it differentiated into distinct kinds of spaces?  How are these spaces differentiated—by size, shape, form or function?  Make a map of your setting.
• Time:  How do things—objects, people, interactions—change over the course of your observation?  Are there clearly marked periods, or are changes more subtle?  How do things begin?  How do they end?  Keep a record of the times and duration of all distinct activities.
• People:  What are the different kinds of people present at the setting?  What distinctions are obvious to you?  Based on how people interact, or talk about one another, can you discern specific social categories or social roles?  How do members of different groups, or occupants of different roles, act and interact?  But be careful:  in this exercise it is very important to describe people, and groups of people, based SOLELY on your observations and not any preconceived notions.

4. Participate:  You must participate as well as observe.  The fundamental assumption behind participant-observation is that to understand a group you must participate in the life of that group, even if it must necessarily be in a limited sense.  We learn not only by watching but also by doing, and by being conscious of our experience of what we are doing.

5. Talk to Others in Attendance:  You can and should talk to people as part of your research.  Ask them questions about the event or setting.  Try to get at the meaning this particular ritual or event hold for its participants.

6. Take Notes:  During the event, if possible, or immediately after, write down your notes (great anthropologists have been known to sneak away to the bathroom or other inconspicuous location in order to write down a particularly important quote).  Don’t wait until the next day or you will lose some of your information and thoughts.  Your notes should consist of two types of information:  1) a detailed description of exactly what you saw and heard; and 2)  your own feelings or thoughts about what you saw and heard.  These written notes constitute your “field notes.”

The information you gather from this activity will constitute one kind of data that you will be using to write your mini-ethnography, the other information will come from library sources and internet sources.

III.  Paper Due on Sunday 5/10/15 by 11:59pm PST.
Now that you have gathered all of your research material, including secondary sources from your library and internet research and primary sources from your participant-observation, you will be writing your mini-ethnography.   This final assignment will be a 5-6 page paper that introduces your culture and what you have learned about that culture, particularly in terms of social rules and cultural meanings.
**** EVERYTHING MUST BE WRITTEN IN YOUR OWN WORDS- you can use quotes but be sure that your work is you own original production for this class.

Since all of you will be studying quite different topics and cultures, I cannot list the specific components that should be included in the paper.  Each paper, however, must have an introduction that clearly states your thesis – the key thing you learned about the culture you studied, a series of paragraphs to substantiate your thesis, a conclusion, and a bibliography.
Please see the distributed guidelines for specific formatting information.

The final paper should be submitted by the due date as indicated in your syllabus and include all
of the following:
•    Your Mini-Ethnography (5-6 pages)
•    A Works Cited Page
•    A copy of your field notes (these can be typed-up on the computer or handwritten and scanned into the computer)

All of this can be submitted to Blackboard as a single long document through using the link in the assignment folder entitled” Turn in your assignment here”. Please note that after you upload your document, it will appear to have lost its formatting. Don’t worry, I will be able to see it properly when I grade it.