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Ethnography Reflection Response Essay


Since Ethnography is a broad area of study, a lot of data collection is involved. The various ways of data collection in ethnography are through interviews, observation and questionnaires. Ethnography mainly aims at describing, in written form, those things being studied (Heider 20). In the book ‘Mad Dogs, Englishmen, and the Errant Anthropologist (fieldwork in Malaysia)’, Douglas Raybeck the ethnographer had to learn the culture of the society.

He did this through fieldwork and observation as the major methods. For purposes of effectiveness and success in the study, he had to live in the society as an active participant and not merely as a simple observer. This enabled him to first be accepted in the society as a member and learn their language through creation of friendship. This however is never an easy task since one has to always go beyond his means to persevere with a lot of patience in order to obtain positive results (Raybeck 5).

The techniques used to collect information by the ethnographer had resemblance with those mentioned in the book ‘Thinking like an Anthropologist’ on the list beginning on page 71. The ethnographer first did participant observation, then went ahead to do some interviews.

The interviews done were both semi-structured and unstructured. Semi-structured meaning that it used open and closed questions covering the available study topics while unstructured meaning that it strictly used the open questions which encouraged some discussion between the interviewee and the interviewer.

The last technique used by Raybeck is collection of texts and artifacts used by the community in their daily activities. In addition to all the field work that Raybeck the ethnographer has done, he has supplemented it with other sources of information. The common one used is the secondary information source. This is whereby the ethnographer went ahead with research on the culture he is studying using books written by others on culture and the internet (Raybeck 30).

In the entire work, there are a lot of things involved before the ethnography is completed. This therefore does not favor any form of working without help from others. The ethnographer is helped in the collection of texts and artifacts from the vast societal land. He is also greatly helped in carrying out of his interviews. He also received some help especially in the distribution and collection of questionnaires and the mobilization of the entire community.

In the entire study carried out by Raybeck, one point that is evidently clear is the application of a lot of professionalism. The ethnographer chooses to take a scientific approach in the study of the community. The scientific approach is taken in the way the community is studied and the way it is reported.

All these as earlier mentioned is done cautiously and with a lot of professionalism. The way the texts and artifacts collected are analyzed also reveals the fact that the study took a scientific way of approach. In his actual study, the ethnographer uses sampling as a means of selecting the place to carry out the fieldwork.

He skillfully does this making sure that the places picked in the sample makes a true representation of the entire area under study. This approach is taken because the study area is quite vast and therefore if the decision to study the entire area in detail is taken, then the study could take a very long period of time to come with a true and a conclusive report about the society under study.

Raybeck manages to enter into the society despite the new culture due to the entry approach he takes. The ethnographer first establishes a complete rapport with the members of the society creating bonds of friendship with them. With this, he manages to break the barriers of hostility which could have otherwise hindered him from carrying out the ethnography in the entire region. With no form of friendship, the ethnographer could have been treated with a lot of hostility and suspicion.

The people could have viewed him as one who wanted to rip apart their culture. He therefore presents himself so cautiously and friendly in a manner not to suggest any form of enmity since these could have hindered the study. With this, the ethnographer thus earns great respect in the eyes of the society members. He is therefore seen as a trustworthy person and it is for that reason that he is highly esteemed.

Raybeck appears to have acquired rapport at the point when he could interact with the society freely and they are very willing to teach him their culture beginning with their language. This is so because true rapport establishment is evidenced by the capability to create friendship. The evidence of the ethnographer’s impact on the communities is in the tendency of the community to resist the ethnography.

Their main fear is that of interference of their culture by the ethnographer. Since the ethnographer is from a different lifestyle and has taken time to stay among the people under study, definitely a mix of the two cultures must have caused some behavioral change among some people.

That’s the reason for the opposition received by the ethnographer. In response to the impacts, the ethnographer chooses to literally assume the open opposition and uses every opportunity available to carry out his study to the fullest. He therefore goes deeper beyond the level he had ever gone in his study. The ethnographer literally chooses to be part of the community in virtually all aspects. This has a great boost on his research work making it possible for him to be effective in the field.

The community on its own side also has some impact on the ethnographer (Raybeck). This is evidenced by the behavioral change on the part of the ethnography. He so becomes part of the community as a result of seeking acceptance that he starts adapting some of the local cultural issues.

The field worker at some point also seems to be suffering from some cultural shock. This is when he experiences some difficult with the language, friends, housing and the work in general. It also reaches some point where by the ethnographer starts missing home when in the new environment. However, despite all these, the ethnographer does not isolate himself from the larger society claiming to be suffering from culture shock.

He even does not build up any form of resentment against the host community. Seemingly, he has great understanding on how he could effectively manage culture shock. It is like he expected this to happen anyway. He tries his level best to adjust to the new culture by eating the kinds of food eaten though not hungry and even resting just at the normal times and not when he is completely tired (Raybeck 55).

There are also other aspects in the community life at large that Raybeck chooses to ignore and lacks access on others. For instance, he seems to lack access to core beliefs and traditions practiced by the community. He chooses to also ignore any manifestation of tribalism and any form of talk insinuating dislike or segregation to other ethnic communities. He also does not have access to the places highly esteemed by the cultural people, for instance, the shrines. The ethnographer also encounters some ethical issues.

These are particularly evident when some of the traditions of the community are practiced in the presence of the ethnographer and when some of the cultural practices by the community seem to contradict what is basically viewed as right or bad globally. However, this encounter of ethical issues does not limit the ethnographer from completing his study; what took him to the society.

There are also strengths and weaknesses of fieldwork discussed. A major strength that is illustrated about fieldwork is the emphasis on naturalism. It is also reliable since first hand information is outsourced directly from the community of study. The weaknesses portrayed are the facts that it is time consuming and laborious (Raybeck 105).

In the book ‘Thinking like an Anthropologist’, we find that different social groups did different things together. For instance, the parents are found laboring for their families. The children join them at the time when they are old enough. The youth who are most energetic are largely involved in the production work. However, most of the things in the society at large are done as a family. In the exchange of goods and services, it is observed that it tends to be channeled by kinship and debt relations.

For instance, a man may be expected to give more of his wool harvest to a parent or any other particular kinsman, or the temple priests, or his landlord compared to that of others. Those who are economically empowered tend to exercise more power that those who are economically weak. Collecting resources for village feast might be the sole responsibility of one leader, for example, and a successful feast increases that person’s power. Distribution can thus Influence political power.

Looking at the religious beliefs verses economic activities, it is evident that religious beliefs may influence the economic activities practiced. For instance, a religious ceremony may require extra production of dress cloth, exchanges of livestock or only persons with certain religious credentials are allowed to make trade beaded belts (Omohundro 114).

The most impressive thing to me about the book ‘Mad Dogs, Englishmen, and the Errant Anthropologist (fieldwork in Malaysia)’, is the ability of someone to get out from a totally different cultural group into another cultural group, learn their way of life and be able to write about it with very minimal or no difficult at all.

The most upsetting thing I read in this book is the level of ethnocentrisms present in some communities. This disappointed me because however different we may be on cultural grounds, no one is superior to the other but we were all created with the same potential in life. I, in the course of reading, uncovered my own ethnocentrisms.

I discovered that when among a people who think that their culture is more important than the rest, I may tend to be also ethnocentric in the struggle of defending my own culture. On the part of the ethnographer together with his wife, I did not find any form of ethnocentrisms but on the part of the villagers, I did find some ethnocentrisms. This all manifested in the manner in which they acted concerning their cultures.

Works Cited

Heider, Karl. Seeing Anthropology. London: Prentice Hall, 2001. Print.

Omohundro, John. Thinking like an Anthropologist. 1st ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. Print.

Raybeck, Douglas. Mad Dogs, Englishmen, and the Errant Anthropologist: Fieldwork in Malaysia. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 1996. Print.

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