The conceptualization of the “field” in early Soviet ethnography had its own dynamics and elaborations within the discursive arenas of the Leningrad ethnographic school. Beginning with the prehistory of the idea of the field among the Enlightenment naturalists and travelers, we turn toward a description of long-term expeditions of the first generation of Soviet ethnographers of the North. Comparing field diaries, photographs, questionnaires, lectures, and textbooks, we consider the patterns and flexibility in the concept of the field in the first half of the twentieth century. We conclude with a discussion of how post–World War II Soviet anthropologists departed from the ideas of participant observation and long-term fieldworking prominent in earlier conceptualizations of fieldwork in Soviet ethnography.
A Northern Perspective
Dmitry V. Arzyutov and Sergei A. Kan
The story of a disturbing episode
This piece tells the story of a disturbing episode in the author's relationship with the field. Though the details are unique, the kind of ethical dilemmas it documents must be in some form or other part of the experience of a great many anthropologists – though such stories are seldom set down in print. These dilemmas include the balance we strike between participation and observation, and between the moral commitments we have as private individuals and our (no less moral) commitment as anthropologists to report on our ethnography in as impartial and objective a way as is possible. Central to this particular story is the anthropologist's relationship with his research assistant over more than two decades, and it tells of the latter's involvement in various human rights campaigns, his arrest, imprisonment and on-going trial on vaguely specified charges. I reflect on the way in which these events have affected my subsequent fieldwork and on the way I have written up. It is the story of a friendship and of a genuine intellectual collaboration between the anthropologist and anthropologist's research assistant that is probably not so uncommon but is seldom fully reflected in the ethnographies we read.
From the Drama of Production to the Production of Drama
Gluckman's paper, "The Bridge," challenged received social anthropology, initially in segregated South Africa, at the LSE, and more generally, by illustrating that professional observers and participants in social situations are profoundly mutually interinvolved with one another despite wide cultural differences. While retracing his own history within it, the present writer relates this new anthropology to the methods of modernist literature (and to changing natural science approaches) in which writers such as Joyce and Woolf, and more recent successors, revealed the culture of an epoch in the closely analyzed incidents of even a single day. They paralleled Freud's methods in psychoanalysis and the specific analyses of discrete political situations in Marx, as well as in later developments of television, film, and the visual arts. After Gluckman's move to the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute, Oxford, and finally Manchester, he and his colleagues and students are shown as developing this interpretive method in very varied contexts.
This article puts forward an experiential teaching method for becoming aware of, getting access to, and giving meaning to the sensory experiences that constitute and shape learning processes during social anthropological fieldwork. While social anthropologists use all their senses in the field, the preparation and processing of fieldwork are limited to certain senses. In accordance with the academic habitus, it is common to discuss theoretical texts pre-fieldwork and almost exclusively rely on making meaning of written fieldwork material afterwards. While cognitively produced textual sources and techniques of verbalisation (e.g. presentations) are extensively focused on, the body, emotional and sensory experiences are often overlooked in academic discourse and practices. The proposed experiential method integrates the dimensions of sensory experiences in classes, colloquiums and workshops, and brings into practice a teaching approach that includes the analysis of embodied knowledge and stresses its importance as an ethnographic source.
A Practical Guide
This article discusses structural, logistical, and administrative issues associated with the use of participant observation assignments in teaching the anthropology of religion. Fieldwork presents extraordinary opportunities for teaching students about the nature of cultural difference, but it also poses pedagogical challenges that require careful planning and supervision. The article reviews problems including the scope and nature of the observation, student preparation and guidance, connecting with fieldsites, presentation formats, issues of ethics and confidentiality, and university administrative considerations.
This article refers to the methodology of this eld as a viable way of being in a very complex (personal, institutional, research) situation of existence at different levels over a long period of time. The author uses ‘distancing’, putting in abeyance her personal reactions in order to comprehend and make evident what would otherwise have been difficult to go through. So participant observation not only deeply familiarises the researcher with a situation and culture, it also provides a standpoint of not personally getting involved in order to continue research.
Transformation from Village to Suburban Town
Mary Elaine Hegland
Anthropological participant observation, in-depth, open-ended interviewing and oral history reveal aspects of social change and modernisation that have taken place in Aliabad, Iran, over more than half a century. These developments have transpired in interplay with economic, political and cultural processes. As a result of economic transformation from sharecropping and trading to urban-style jobs, and due to outside influences as a consequence of advances in transportation, communication, education and travel, villagers have been able to make other choices. Through bottom-up social and political change, relationships in all areas of life have become less authoritarian and hierarchical and more egalitarian and subject to negotiation and individuation.
Political Transformation and Recent Ethnographic Fieldwork in Iran
Mary Elaine Hegland and Erika Friedl
In the 1970s social cultural anthropology in Iran was beginning to flourish. However, with the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the subsequent Islamic Republic of Iran, fieldwork in Iran became extremely problematic. Foreign anthropologists faced formidable obstacles to obtaining visas and permits. Anthropologists working inside Iran were also discouraged from anthropological participant observation. As a result, during the post revolutionary period, few anthropologists have been conducting fieldwork in Iran. Recently, some hopeful signs for a possible reestablishment of anthropology can be noted, among them the return of young Iranian anthropologists, from countries where they have grown up and gained an education, to their homeland for dissertation research. This article discusses the influences on fieldwork of politics—international, national and local—and projects, problems and strategies of some anthropologists who have conducted recent ethnographic fieldwork in Iran.
Back to Being Jewish?
In this ethnographic essay, I reflect on the origins and present condition of the new (post-2010) Israeli diaspora in Berlin. Based on 10 months of participant observation, I map out the main sub-streams of this emigration; elicit the economic, professional, and political reasons for leaving Israel; and explore these émigrés’ initial encounter with German society. My observations suggest that many Israeli residents of Berlin (mostly secular) rediscover their Jewishness along diasporic lines and forge ties with the local religious and community organizations. Being a small minority in the German-speaking milieu, Israelis invest in building their own Hebrew-based community networks, including media outlets and cultural and educational institutions. Lastly, I explore these émigrés’ ties with Israel and conclude that many Israelis in Berlin are sojourners rather than immigrants and that Berlin is but one phase in their life journey.
An Autoethnography of a Return of Human Remains
Lotten Gustafsson Reinius
Having a dual perspective as researcher of expressive culture and museum curator, I engage in the ceremonial aspects of repatriation through a practice-based “museology from within.” Focusing on a handover of human remains by the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm to indigenous claimants from Australia (2004), I combine material from my own participant observation with sources such as interviews and written and photographic documentation. The aim is to bring an autoethnographic perspective to a discussion on the ritual dynamics of repatriation. The transfer of custody and right of interpretation was accomplished with a ceremonial process, cocreated by museum staff and indigenous claimants. Drawing on differing cultural scripts as well as on improvised interplay, participants engaged in turn taking and intercultural translation of symbolic communication. Certain themes were ritualized redundantly, such as mutual exchange and reconciliation, but there also existed the more paradoxical copresence of seclusion and openness, closure and continuation.