Ethnography- Laura Bohannon

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Ethnography (from the Greek = nation = writing) refers to the genre of writing that presents qualitative description of human social phenomena, based on fieldwork. Ethnography presents the results of a holistic research method founded on the idea that a system’s properties cannot necessarily be accurately understood independently of each other. “The genre has both formal and historical connections to travel writing and colonial office reports. Several academic traditions, in particular the constructivist and relativist paradigms, claim ethnographic research as a valid research method. (http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Relativism) In a publish narrative under a pseudonym Laura Bohannans.

Laura Bohannon, in her book Return to Laughter (Bowen, Elenore, 1954, Doubleday), describes a dilemma, first hand, when disease begins to rage through an African country. AUTHOR’S MOTIVE TO UNDERTAKE THE RESEARCH “That no one with me knew more English was my own fault, and my set intent. It had been the first advice given me. ‘Never use an interpreter,’ my professors had intoned, ‘or you’ll never learn the language properly. ’” (Bowen, 1954. g. 8) To learn the language and follow the traditions of notable anthropologist by living among the subject of study in total immersion is the impetus of genuine anthropology. “‘You’ll learn the language more quickly,’ Sackerton had confirmed cheerfully, “if no one around you can speak any English”. The cook’s bit of pidgin was my compromise between their counsel and my misgivings. I could at least get food and water through him — when he was with me. Right now he was in back with my drinking water, and I couldn’t tell the driver to stop.

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As the truck went on and on, I sincerely hoped that the other advice I’d taken would prove more immediately helpful. “(Bowen, 1954. pg. 8) THEORETICAL OR PRACTICAL IMPETUS TO RESEARCH The author accomplished anthropology via an active practical or relativism approach, “consisted of various theories each of which claims that some element or aspect of experience or culture is relative to, i. e. , dependent on, some other element or aspect. ” (http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Relativism) For example, some relativists claim that humans can understand and evaluate beliefs and behaviors only in terms of their historical or cultural context.

The term often refers to truth relativism, which is the doctrine that there are no absolute truths, i. e. truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture. “No, I could not forget. I had followed Agundu. My soul’s protest was so deep that I nearly cried aloud: I can look on Agundu, on reality unafraid, but I cannot see my own naked being. I had followed science out here, as one follows a will-o’-the-wisp, seeing only what beckoned from the distance, paying no heed to the earth I spurned beneath my feet, seeing naught about me.

I had served anthropology well. Notebook upon notebook, good stuff, and accurate, and I had the knowledge to work it soundly so that I might stand, with a craftsman’s pride, before the finished work and say, ‘This is mine. ’ “(Bowen, 1954. pg. 249) APPROACH TAKEN BY THE AUTHOR DISCUSSING FIELDWORK Despite the success of the participant-observation method, transcription has remained crucial in fieldwork, especially when the research is linguistically or philologically oriented, or when it collects (the author prefer “produces”) extended indigenous texts.

Indeed a large part of Malinowski’s published ethnographies (their many myths, spells, legends) are the products of transcription. In Return to Laughter, Laura Bohannan (Bowen 1954) advised prospective fieldworkers: “You’ll need more tables than you think. ” (Sanjek, 1990, pg. 51) Ethnographers’ long-standing interest in migration has taken on new significance as researchers grapple with globalization on the ground. Building on the trans-nationalism literature, exploration on how appeals to use local archival work and revisits to achieve historical depth can be applied fruitfully to ethnographies of migration.

The utility of these strategies is demonstrated with examples from the migration literature and five years of ethnographic fieldwork among Mexican migrants. In the author’s case, methodology is supported by the engagement of real world case studies with theoretical research programs in ways that attend to the validity of the study. “While I still stared, Yabo stirred and growled at Atakpa. Soon I found myself eating a freshly roasted car of corn. Then she brought what looked like a mass of wet, white clay and, in a separate dish, a slimy green substance. I smiled, rubbed my stomach, and waved my ear of corn in my effort to look well-fed.

Atakpa rather reluctantly removed the dishes: Yabo and the young man ate them. In their place, she brought me the dirt-eating child and once more started pointing and talking. To please her, I listlessly jotted some syllables of nonsense. But Atakpa had a genius for making her meaning clear. I suddenly realized that she was teaching me those anthropological favorites — kinship terms — and I fell to writing happily. This, I resolved, was the way I wanted to do field work: in quiet, among just a few people at a time, and in their own homes. But how? I might not find everyone as hospitable as Atakpa. “(Bowen, 1954. g. 8) ETHICAL ISSUES “I was beginning to understand what they did. I could not understand what they felt. I could admire the way co-wives got on together and still know that I, born and reared as I had been, could never take such a relationship. I would have all the wrong emotions. However, I personally could never be involved in polygamy. Indeed, I could see no reason to expect I should get emotionally involved in any way. I forgot that I had friends who would expect me to stand by them. I forgot that what they thought right might conflict with my own morals and principles. ” (Bowen, 1954. pg. 118)

PRESENTED RESULTS OF THE STUDY “Among accounts of fieldwork by British-trained anthropologists, Laura Bohannan’s Return to Laugher, which presented time spent among exotic others as a spiritual quest for oneself, was particularly appropriate for her postwar Oxford peers who either filled the ranks of the Christian Union or adopted Being and Nothingness as their Bible. ” (Macclancy et al. 1996, pg 28) “She has been vaccinated but cannot get the people to go to the hospital to get vaccinated by Western doctors. Their way of coping with it, is to banish a person from the tribe as soon as a person contracts smallpox.

If Bohannon goes after the banished man to give him food and returns without having smallpox she will be considered a witch. This will mean she can no longer study these people effectively. ” (Bowen, 1954. pg. 200) “It is true the prospect of fieldwork may be enchanted by the promise of romance, but that promise may turn badly sour. Going native might be tempting, but it can also go disastrously wrong. Anthropologist emphasizes how seductive some find the idea of hunter-gatherers and how this ‘organized innocence’ may blind them to gender inequality and persistent violence (1991: 322-3).

Theroux’s found he became happy with only ‘the most savage logic’ (1974: 196). Popescu mentions the over-romantic anthropologists who dared to accompany Maasai youth on their lengthy walkabout; the lads survived this hardy initiation into manhood but their guests did not (1996: 112). ” (Macclancy, 2005) Recognizing ethnographic research as a direct, first hand observation of daily behavior, it uniquely allows the researcher to participate in the actual process as a participant observer. It is a research method based entirely on fieldwork.

Bowen’s ethnographic research seeks to observe phenomena as it occurs real time, typically in this case, gives the researcher the worldview of her observed subjects. The criticism against ethnographic research is that the observer’s presence may in itself contribute to results that are inaccurate. This is because the observed subjects may act in a manner that’s different from norm due to the presence of the observer. Since the observed behavior is not usual behavior, hence the derived results are false because it does not depict normal behavior. The relationship between the ethnographer and the novelist becomes blurred in the ethnographic novel. Elizabeth Fernea mentions two forms of these novels, “one written by an outsider about an other, and an ethnographic novel written by an artist from within the culture” (1989, p. 154). The best known example of a novel written from outside about another is Elizabeth Bowen’s African novel Return to Laughter (1954). However, “the sterling example of an ethnographic novel written by an artist from within…is Return to Laughter. ”(De Angelis, 2002, pg 12)

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Ethnography- Laura Bohannon. (2017, Apr 02). Retrieved from

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