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Anthropological Fieldwork at the Beginning of the 21st Century.

Crisis and Location of

Author(s): Vesna V. Godina
Source: Anthropos, Bd. 98, H. 2. (2003), pp. 473-487
Published by: Anthropos Institut
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40467336
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jj|J 98.2003: 473-487

Anthropological Fieldwork at the

of the 21st Century
Crisis and Location of Knowledge

Vesna V. Godina

deepened even more with the advent of postmod-

Abstract. - In this article different variants of anthropolog-
ical fieldwork are analysed and some of the most important
ern analyses of anthropological ethnography (cf.
conditions for each are presented and elaborated. Different
Clifford and Marcus 1986; Clifford 1988, etc.).
variants of anthropological fieldwork are also analysed from the
Out of this crisis came fruitful analysis and critique
point of view of the location and dislocation of anthropological
of different aspects of anthropological fieldwork,
knowledge. Particular attention is paid to the variant of anthro-
pological fieldwork where a non- West European anthropologist
which has become an important interest of anthro-
works on a West European field. Some consequences of this
pologists in the last twenty years.1 By the end of
fieldwork practise for the future development of anthropology
the century, "after the critique of
are discussed. [West Europe, social and cultural anthropology, ethnography,"
fieldwork] all that remains is "Faith, Hope and Charity,
but the Greatest of These is Charity" (Marcus
Vesna V. Godina, associated professor of social and cultur- 1994: 40). With such a profile, anthropology and
al anthropology, is lecturing social, cultural, political, and its concomitant fieldwork have been demoted to
linguistic anthropology on both Slovene universities, University
of Ljubljana (Faculty of Social Sciences) and University of the status they had already in Sapir's scepticism
Maribor (Faculty of Pedagogics) on graduate and postgraduateabout anthropology as a whole, and fieldwork in
level. She holds the chair of the Commission on Theoretical
particular: "[In short, being a social scientist is
Anthropology by the International Union of Anthropological
not an easy task . . . Perfect objectivity would
and Ethnological Sciences. She was a Fulbright Scholar at Ha-
wai 'i Pacific University (researching, lecturing) from January
be a good thing, but we can't have it;
to September 2003. and] if we can't have a good thing we'll have
[to make do with] a bad one. Since even natural
science is only ad hoc . . . anthropology should not
Fieldwork is one of the most important charac- be worried about whether it is an 'exact' science"
teristics of the anthropological discipline. It(Sapir
is, 1994: 61).
however, one of the most mystified, and one which Other aspects of the fieldwork crisis, however,
has been, at least since 1967, in deep crisis. arise from the fact that today fieldwork is no
One aspect of that crisis is already visiblelonger
in an uniform praxis: it comprises essentially
Malinowski's "Coral Gardens and Their Magic" different situations and experiences. These differ-
(1935), which offered an emerging critique of
his own Trobriands fieldwork (Malinowski 1935:
1 Cf. Bausinger 1997; Bowman 1997; Cerroni-Long 1986;
Clifford 1992; Driessen 1997; Geertz 1973, 1995; Giordano
452-463). But the true crisis erupted only with the
1997; Hastrup 1992, 1993, 1995; Kaschuba 1997; Koepping
appearance of his "A Diary in the Strict Sense 1997;
of Van Maanen 1988; Van Maanen (ed.) 1995; Marcus
the Term" (1967). Anthropological fieldwork since
1997; Marcus and Fischer 1986; Richtmann-Augustin 1997;
the "Diary" had never been the same. The crisisTolosana 1997; Wicker 1997.

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474 Vesna V. Godina

ences are connected to the two basic dimensions of work is fieldwork per se and as such constitutes
the precise variant which is connected to anthro-
fieldwork: first, to the place of fieldwork, i. e., the
pology as a science in both the historical and
answer to the question "Where does the fieldwork
the structural senses. As Lila Abu-Lughod has
take place?"; and second, to the observer, i.e.,
the answer to the question "Who performs thepointed out, anthropology "is a discipline built
fieldwork"? on the historically constructed divide between the
Combining the different possible variables of West and the non- West. It has been and continues
place and agent gives us three typical types of to be primarily the study of the non- Western
fieldwork situation: other by the Western self (Abu-Lughod 1991:
(1) field: non-European society; observer: an an- 139).
thropologist from West Europe;2 This is the kind of fieldwork which was "in-
(2) field: non-European society; observer: a native vented" by Malinowski; this is also the kind of
anthropologist; fieldwork which is standard at both Oxford and
(3) field: West European society; observer: a West Cambridge; this variety of fieldwork is the one
European anthropologist. treated as genuine anthropological fieldwork; this
All three kinds of fieldwork situation can be is the kind of fieldwork which is connected to most
found in anthropological practise in the last cen- debates about the advantages and disadvantages of
tury. They do not, however, have the same status, fieldwork, the crises in fieldwork, and so on; this
nor are they connected with the same problems remains the kind of fieldwork which "seems to pro-
and limitations. This means, of course, that there vide anthropologists with a common grounding,"
is no longer any uniform constitution in field- and, moreover, which "provides an intellectual and
work. In each of these three settings, the crisis emotional grounding for the discipline" (Borofsky
in anthropological fieldwork takes very different 1994a: 17).
forms, for each of which anthropologists have What exactly are the characteristics of this ide-
already established some crucial conditions andal anthropological fieldwork? Frustrating, boring,
limitations. uninteresting - all these adjectives were included
In order to understand the present status of in Malinowski' s answer (Malinowski 1967; Wayne
1995/1). Gravel (1976: 121) added a more detailed
fieldwork, its problems, and its perspectives, it will
be necessary to analyse separately each of these description:
three field settings.
The substantive part of fieldwork has no glamour. It is
made up of routine matters about which it is difficult
to be expansive. Fieldwork is really made up of the
1. The Classical Setting: A West European same little administrative tasks we try to get away
Anthropologist in a Non-European Field from. It is made up of trying to make ends meet.
It is made up of wiping dishes, of sweeping floors,
of book-keeping, of keeping things and equipment in
Classical anthropological fieldwork occurs when
a West European anthropologist observes a non-shape, of filing away notes, letters and photographs or
writing endlessly and eternally trying to remember more.
European society or culture.3 This kind of field-
It is made up of attempts at disentangling the red tape
of local bureaucracies and at reviving moribund requests
2 "From West Europe" in this usage, includes those from and permissions. It is made up of constantly trying to
the West European countries, the USA, and Canada. Sim-reschedule timeless time and to fathom bottomless pits.
ilarly, the term "West European Anthropologist" includes
It is made up of supervision of assistants, or correcting
anthropologists from West European countries, the USA,
and Canada. errors, covering faux pas, and of re-instilling a sense of
purpose in your crew. It is made up of the tedium of
3 It is not our aim here to discuss the problem of relationships
daily life with suddenly no one to share it with.
between society and culture. This discussion has a long
and rocky history in social and cultural anthropology.
The American tradition of cultural anthropology has in
Neither are Salzman's (1994:35) comments
most cases oriented fieldwork towards observation of non- markedly more enthusiastic:
European culture/cultures. At the beginning of the 20th
century, the European (and especially the British) tradition
of fieldwork was also oriented towards the study of culture.American cultural anthropology towards non-European cul-
However, with Radcliffe-Brown's reorientation of Britishture/cultures and of British social anthropology towards
social anthropology towards the study of the social systemsnon-European social systems and/or societies became fixed,
of non-European societies, British social anthropology alsoa debate arose about the relationship between culture and
redefined the subject of anthropological fieldwork. This society which has continued to this day. To view some
redefinition is still in force (Kuper 1996; Stocking 1995).recent aspects of this debate, compare, for example, Goody
However, even after the above mentioned orientation of (1992) and Kuper (2000).

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Anthropological Fieldwork at the Beginning of the 21st Century 475

But it is hard to deny some of the above There mentioned

was no instruction in the methods of fieldwork
difficulties - which we prefer to think byof as practical
participant observation. This provoked a certain
difficulties - in regard to our areal preparations.
nervousness asWith the moment approached to depart for
our decisions about research venues being taken
the field. . . .only
Couldn'ta we be given some guidance about
year or two before we are scheduled toprocedures?
leave for At field
last Jack Goody consented to talk to us
research, and with the relevant languages, literatures,
. . . Jack Goody explained that there was no real method,
and other areal subjects seldom being nothing
available that atcould our
be taught. The important things to
bear inat
universities, and with there being commonly mind
leastwere twothat one had to remain healthy and
field languages to master, the national on and the local,
good terms with the authorities, and keep duplicates
and with the foreign scholarly literatures on notes,
of one's the place
sending copies home as often as possible.
of research often being in one or moreThis was the established
additional lan- tradition. The veterans boasted
guages, all too frequently ones we havethatnot previously
they had gone into the field without any directions,
studied, we are not usually in a positionor to laywith
at best a solid
risible and conflicting pieces of advice
foundation for our research. So we typically
on matters catch a
of etiquette.
summer language course or fit in a regional culture or
history course, while we put our hopes on picking up the
Salzman also agrees that "no actual training,
language in the field, learning about the culture directly
practice, or honing of skills could be undertaken
from the informants, and mastering the broader context
... we go to the field with only a rudimentary
through archival research in the field. We rely on our
knowledge of the field languages." "So we go
rapid progress in the field and our ability to cover all
to thebut
the bases. Okay, it takes a lot of scrambling, field, ourishopes pinned on the . . . 'par-
what fieldwork is all about! ticipant observation,' which in practice seems to
mean hanging around with the folks, with some
Problems can thus begin before a West Eu-notion of watching what happens and doing some
ropean anthropologist arrives at the non-Euro- interviews" (1994: 32).
pean field. First of all, most anthropologists do When the West European anthropologist is in
their first fieldwork as part of their Ph.D. prep- the field, there is another series of difficulties
aration, at the very beginning of their profes- awaiting him or her. First of all, there are diffi-
sional careers (Clifford, and Marcus 1986: 264;cult and sometimes dangerous living conditions
Obeyesekere 1990: 230), since "today, fieldwork (Salzman 1994:31). Then there is the so-called
experience generally constitutes a rite passage"alienating nature of the field situation" (Obeyese-
for obtaining a Ph.D. in anthropology" (Borofskykere 1990:235), connected to the fact that an
1994b: 146). One of Freeman's (1983) main ar-anthropologist in the field is a "marginal outsid-
guments against Mead, therefore - that she was er - incompetent, awkward, rude - and largely
young and inexperienced when she did her field-irrelevant" (Salzman 1994:31; see also Eriksen
work on Samoa - is more or less a general char- 1995: 14; Obeyesekere 1990: 228). Additionally,
acteristic of first fieldwork experiences for Westall kinds of personal problems which occur are
European anthropologists. Second, to increase theclosely related to this marginal position: "prob-
difficulties, there is no really helpful instruction on lems of sex, aggression, loneliness, and despair"
how fieldwork should be done. Mead (1995: 142) (Obeyesekere 1990: 235).
described the American fieldwork situation as For the essence of fieldwork involves work
follows: with informants; this fact complicates the anthro-
pologist's situation even more. This complication
The style, set early in the century, of giving a student
good theoretical orientation and then sending him is offconnected to the fact that "contrary to the
to live among primitive people with the expectation traditional anthropological views of fieldwork, our
that he would work everything out for himself survives informants are not simply giving us 'facts'; they
to this day. In 1933, when I gave a girl student who are involved with us in a crucial intersubjective
was setting out for Africa some basic instructionsrelationship
on and are engaged in continuing dia-
how to cope with the drinking habits of British officers,
logue with us" (Obeyesekere 1990: 226). This in-
anthropologists in London sneered. And in 1952, when I
volvement is related to sympathies and antipathies,
arranged for Theodore Schwartz to spend a year learningand to positive and negative transference; there are
new technologies . . . that we intended to use in the field,
some informants whom anthropologists love and
his professors at the University of Pennsylvania thought
this was ridiculous.
there are some whom they hate, a state of affairs
already clearly illustrated by Malinowski not only
Several decades later on, Kuper (1992: 60 f.) in his diary (1967: 33, 264), but also in one of his
concluded that in the British tradition of fieldwork letters to Elsie, in which he wrote, "There is also
too, one informant here, Motagoi . . . who is by far the

Anthropos 98.2003

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476 Vesna V. Godina

best I self-reflections
ever hadon his own culture"
to gauge 1990: 235). The anthropologist will then
exactly the have to p
1995/1: live for the restf.).
167 of his or her life somewhere in
This between: thus, the anthropologist lives and works
ambivalence is
an in two worlds.
anthropologist's r
ual informants, but
Additionally, there is the problem of evaluating
to his orthe results
her of such fieldwork. From the time Ma-
whole; helinowski's
or diary was published,
she the authority of
time (cf.ethnography collapsed:
persist long after the
There The intellectual
are, authority that modern anthropology
originally claimed, resting on objective reports of first-
informants. Every i
hand experience gained with exotic peoples through the
that he or she is bein
practice of fieldwork, has been seriously undermined.
he or she isn't goi
Today no-one accepts uncritically the truth claims of the
is goingclassicto exhibit
monographs. Indeed, for many ethnography has
thinks is become
a sort of creative writing rather than a scientific M
ful informant
exercise (Grimshaw and Hart 1993: 7). is (un
information given t
connection Moreover, even those authors who do not ac-
effect" (Obeyeseker
cept such postmodernist relativism must admit that
the interpreter in
in the field every anthropologist sees what he or t
anthropologist is
she was "programmed to see" (Kuper 1992: 63). de
This "programming" has much to do with the a
to knowledge of
fact that the authority of the fieldwork of a giv- th
the anthropologist
en anthropologist continues only as long as this is
more dependent
anthropologist remains the sole agenthe who has is
1990: 236).
"done" a particular field.
To the above comp
fieldwork situations
The credibility of our field reports rests mainly on their
not uniqueness,
occur that is, on the absence of any other reports
occur, of thatextreme
might present contrary "findings" . . . Most of the
the cases
possibility of repeat or closely comparable
that studies, from th
Redfield and Lewis in Mexico to the Truk controversy
different roles in th
and up to the challenge to Mead's work in Samoa, have
are opened that the
resulted in gross contradiction, angry confusion, and a
enough time to
final uncertainty (Salzman 1994: 35). real
are some which can
as, for example,
Linked to this is also the well-known factor the
ables an of anthropolo
"resistance to others studying 'my people' . . ."
society which
(Obeyesekere 1990: 234). "As farthe
as I know, an- l
to high-ranking str
thropology is the only scientific discipline that
contrast, problems
discourages replication of scholarly work. No one c
uations between
wants others messing around with my people"an
(234 f.). can
for example, "if the
However, it is not only that every anthropolo- i
intelligent than
gist sees what he or she is programmed to see; the
better politician"
every anthropologist also does not see what he (O
If anthropologists
or she is supposed not to see. For example, an- in
how "unnatural" circumstances finish their field-
thropologists in most cases do not understand the
work - "if young fieldworkers do not give up basic in dimensions of their own method, the meth-
despair, go mad, ruin their health, or die," they do
od of observation with participation. Obeyesekere
"after a fashion, become anthropologists" (Mead characterised participation in the following terms
1995: 142). But neither is this the end of the story:
(1990: 227 f.):
on returning home, the anthropologist first has
to survive another identity crisis, another typeThus of investigator and subject (not object) are of the
"field shock," when "the return produces critical same essence, and as such they constitute an inter subjec-

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Anthropological Fieldwork at the Beginning of the 21st Century 477

tivity governed by dialogue geared towards attempts

In 1994, Salzmanattoo agreed that "we know we
mutual understanding. This relation is often
strive forantheunequal
impossible, so impossible as to be
one, shifting ground in different times and places,
absurd" (1994: and
32). in
different ways. Sometimes / am the dominant partner
If we add of mentioned difficul-
to the above
the second intersubjectivity; sometimes he is. It is only
ties others such as the "impossibility of system-
in this sense that an observer is a participant; otherwise
atically understanding the elusive Other" (Sah-
it is only a pretense at participation, as, for example,
lins 1994:377);
when the fieldworker wants to participate or the fact that anthropologists
by wielding
an occasional hoe. always discuss what happened to them during their
fieldwork and not what really happened (Barth
Such participation is a precondition for under- 1994: 353); or the suspicion that anthropology
standing the other culture: "I begin to understandnever really tries to understand the cultural dif-
the other culture, not on the basis of accumulatedferences of different cultures and societies, since
data (they are by themselves empty of understand- it has been a part of a hegemonic European project
ing) but when I can relate to my informants dia- (Bowmann 1995: 108); or the opinion, already
logically, such that their actions make reasonableuttered by Codrington in 1891, that "the real
sense to me, as mine do to them" (Obeyesekere understanding of native life begins only after a
1990: 226). Moreover, anthropologists do not un- decade or so of experience and study" (Codrington
1972 [1891]: vi-vii); or the contention that an
derstand that knowing the language is not - despite
individual "anthropologist spending a year or two
the fact that it is extremely important for fieldwork
- enough to bring an understanding of the culture.in the field, even with a good working knowledge
As Obeyesekere says, "There are people who of arethe local language, cannot hope to do what no
thoroughly fluent in an alien language but are individual member of the society being studied
does in a lifetime" (Goodenough 1994: 268); or
quite incapable of understanding the alien culture.
This is simply because culture is not coterminous that fieldwork is in its essence "describing a soci-
with language" (230). What is needed, besides
ety's cultural makeup" (Goodenough 1994:268);
or the fact that the production of documents in
language, is "the capacity for an 'empathie projec-
tion' . . .", a capacity which cannot be learned
ethnographic field research is opportunistic and de-
for it is "a gift of early childhood" (230). Con- pendent on random events and good luck (DaMatta
sequently, Obeyesekere concludes, "not everyone 1994: 127); then even if we incorporate "radical
can resurrect it for the adult business of empathet-doubt on the procedures by which alien human
ic understanding in fieldwork" (230). Neithergroups do can be represented without proposing sys-
anthropologists understand that what is goingtematic, on sharply new methods or epistemologies"
(Clifford 1988: 23), we are faced, logically, with
in the field is not a resocialization, but an analysis
based on the symmetry/asymmetry of symbolic a basic, central question: What do these West
forms from the anthropologist's native culture and Europeans actually do in the non-European cul-
the culture which he or she is observing. tures and societies? Salzman answers thus: "Al-
most always, we are doing our research to satisfy
Insofar as our own socialization gives us a capacity to
ourselves, emotionally and intellectually, and to
understand symbolic forms, it also perhaps gives us the
build our careers, to make our own lives better"
capacity to understand symbolic forms not our own. It
(1994: 31; italics V.V.G.). A second possible an-
is likely that the more alien the alien symbolic forms
are to those in my own culture, the more difficult it is is more enthusiastic: "Studying primitives
enables us to see ourselves better" (Kluckhohn
for me to empathize with them and grasp their surface
significance (Obeyesekere 1990: 230). 1959: 16). The third possible answer has some-
thing to do with accepting difference and different
One further reason for the necessary incom- cultures:
pleteness of classical fieldwork is also related to
its proclaimed aims, an issue on which Sapir Thus
has anthropologists have been conscious - whatever
already written (1994: 42): our backgrounds - of the rich plenitude of human
culture. This for some of us is a liberalizing and
The more you immerse yourself in a culture, the humanizing
less experience. It is a cumulative one, and
ability you have to analyze the culture according to ittheis not merely learned but experienced in fieldwork
(Obeyesekere 1990: 273).
anthropological ideal, for just as the Indian is not aware
of the patterns of his culture, [so will you be unaware
of them the more you become like him]. The more you Nevertheless, there remain other reasons for
studying non-European cultures and societies.
identify yourself with the people, the less you are being
an anthropologist, [in that sense]. Eriksen (1995: 19) lists two such reasons: first,

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478 Vesna V. Godina

the home".4 In this kind aim

overall of fieldwork, we do haveofa
for cultural variatio
combination of West European anthropologist and
fact "that it
West European field, is
"implying various nec
ety as between anthropologist
an implicit and informants such as
thing language, culture, history"
which (Norman 2000: 121),
bours." while also having the implication of ". . . 'home' as
No matter which arguments we prefer - those a site of origin, of sameness" (Clifford 1997: 213).
for or those against the fieldwork of Western This fieldwork combination has further implica-
anthropologists in a non-European field - some tions:
elements remain stable: that, for instance, this kind
If the notion of "field" in anthropology has tended
of fieldwork is always "a kind of bricolage in to stand for that which is at least initially unknown,
which the ethnographer puts together pieces of unfamiliar, unusual and challenging, then "home" might
his skills and his accumulating experience to grasp be taken to represent that which is, conversely, known,
what his informants tell him (dialogue) and what familiar, routine and more or less comfortable. . . . The
he sees before him (observation)" (Obeyesekere people of the field are "others" while, presumably, the
1990: 230); secondly, that "fieldwork, despite its denizens of home are "us." According to this admittedly
rhetorical tricks, still is hard - and one could add - simplified schema, the field constitutes a place for
dirty work. (God knows that some anthropologists ethnographic enquiry while home may perhaps be taken
for granted, at least with regard to establishing analytical
in the field would give anything for a good story)"
and research priorities (Dyck 2000: 36 f.).
(DaMatta 1994: 127); thirdly, that "fieldwork turns
out to be a risky and wearing business" (Salzman There are several reasons why anthropology
1994:31) which must be guided with a lot of "came home," of which we have mentioned the
courage, for "who without great courage (or great first: the disappearance of exotic fields. There
ignorance) would undertake fieldwork under such remain, however, additional reasons, first that, "an-
conditions?" (33). alyses of tribal societies have inspired researchers
So much regarding the first, classic variant of to use similar analytical models when dealing with
anthropological fieldwork. their own society, and have also provided a useful
basis for comparison . . . there are today many
researchers competing for scarce resources, and
2. Alternatives to Classical Setting: Anthro- far from everybody is able to raise funding for
pology at Home and Native Anthropology long-term fieldwork in a remote place" (Eriksen
1995: 19). Yet another reason goes as follows: "A
In recent decades at least two basic changes have general argument in favour of anthropological re-
occurred in classical anthropological fieldwork: search 'at home' is that the questions we ask about
first, "all the beautiful, primitive places are ru- culture, society and so on are equally relevant
ined" (Clifford 1988: 4); and, second, the so-called anywhere in the world" (19).
"native anthropologist" has appeared. The first Historically the connection between West Eu-
change is connected to the fact that anthropology ropean societies and fieldwork was originally es-
"came home," and the second to the fact that tablished in the work of Gluckmann as well as
"[ethnographers from the West who go out to in the work of the "Chicago ethnographers" (cf.
work in these countries [i. e., non-European coun- Burgess 1993: 12-21; Kuper 1991: 142-167). Al-
tries; V.V.G.] are now (necessarily and rightly) though the principle of observation with participa-
joining up with these local communities of schol- tion is, in theory, totally compatible with situations
ars, engaging in common debates, and finding in Western societies, in practise there are some
themselves liable to stinging criticism for fail- difficulties in its implementation; these difficulties
ures in empathy, political sensitivity, and local lead to a partial redefinition of some elements and
knowledge" (Kuper 1994: 115). All these changes principles of fieldwork. However, some elements
have influenced traditional anthropological field- and principles remain unchanged.
work not only epistemologically but also in many Elements not requiring redefinition are as fol-
practical ways. Moreover, they have activated lows: "residence in situ, participant observation,
important problems and dilemmas, which are of
basic importance to those practising fieldwork in
the 21st century. 4 For the purposes of this paper I have adopted the term
Let us begin by discussing in more de- "anthropology at home" from Anthony Jackson's book,
tail some of the problems of anthropology "at "Anthropology at Home" (1987).

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Anthropological Fieldwork at the Beginning of the 21st Century 479

the infor-
unstructured interviews and the use of key language and cultural conventions better than
in a culturally
mants" (Burgess 1993: 16). On the other hand, distant place" (20) as a definite
"it has also involved modification of research advantage of doing fieldwork at home; moreover,
designs to meet the demands of new settings
as a general argument in favour of home field-
using different methods and different theories.work
An- he quotes Firth: "Since we can explore the
anthropological problems anywhere, we might as
thropologists have, therefore, borrowed concepts
well go to places where it is comfortable to spend
and methods from other social science disciplines,
some time" (19). Burgess adds two refinements
especially sociology" (16). Or, to put it more clear-
to the argument: first, the disappearance of social
ly, social and cultural anthropology have forged
strongly ties with sociology and its methods.distance between anthropologists and the people
who are observed; and, second, the disappear-
One further dilemma is caused, as Burgess
ance of doubts about what is going on (1993:
suggests, by the complexity of industrial societies,
that is, the question of whether "to study people
superficially or to study a small number of in- Nevertheless, the home situation also brings
with it significant disadvantages, all of which
formants in depth" (1993: 15). The second option
are basically connected to the question classically
has more or less been accepted, with the result
raised by Leach (1963) in his review of Srinivas's
that anthropologists in industrial societies study
very detailed topics and themes. The problem book,of"Caste in Modern India and Other Essays"
the conflict between micro and macro levels of (1962), namely: "How can a social scientist who
research has been resolved in three ways: has no distance on his own society really under-
stand that society?" For Leach, distance is a neces-
First, holism has been sacrificed for a micro level
sary precondition for such an understanding. Some
ethnography of a segmented population. . . . Secondly,
thirty years later, Abu-Lughod (1991) - among
urban interaction networks have been traced through
others - reopens the question (Burgess 1993;
field studies. . . . Finally, macro level ethnographies of
Norman 2000; Ortner 1991). Norman's comment
entire cities have brought together survey materials,
on the problem goes as follows: "It used to be
historical data, and ethnographic evidence . . . (Burgess
1993: 15). assumed, when anthropologists started studying
in their European homelands, that they would be
In comparison, however, with classic anthro- blinded by their cultural similitude with their infor-
pological fieldwork in non-European societies, the mants and take too much for granted" (2000: 121).
basic difference is related not to the above men- Burgess adds, "The key issue is whether field
tioned redefinition of fieldwork method but to the researchers working within their own society expe-
different situation. What is of basic importancerience advantages and disadvantages that are less
here is not the complexity of the situation inlikely to be encountered by researchers working
West European societies but the disappearance of in societies and cultural settings other than their
difference between "us and them," that is, between own" (Burgess 1993: 22). He outlines the answer
anthropologists and natives. The anthropologiststhus (22, 24):
and the observed are members of the same culture
... the main problems for researchers working within
and society. The field, then, is the same place as
their own societies are recognising culture patterns in
home - a situation quite opposite to the classical familiar situations, and interpreting meanings attached to
setting where ". . . 'field' remains separate from events and problems relating to participation, observa-
the 'home' in 'real' anthropological fieldwork"tion and field relations. . . . However, there are difficul-
(Caputo 2000: 25). ties that have to be overcome in this situation: additional
This phenomenon is connected, on the one effort is required to ensure that the insider researcher
hand, with the disappearance of most of the does not take things for granted or overlook situations
troubles arising in classical fieldwork from the that at first sight appear all too familiar. Stephenson and
fact that, in principle, a different culture can beGreer (1981) suggest that researchers working within
understood only partially. However, the kinds oftheir own culture should adopt an artificial naivete by
recording as much detail as possible about the people
problems which disappear when an anthropologist
present and topics of conversation regardless of their
does fieldwork in her or his own society include
relevance. In these terms, they maintain that familiar
the following: problems of mastery of languagetopics should be given "stranger value" and seen through
or codes of behaviour, problems connected withthe eyes of the stranger.
climate, strange food and different standards of
hygiene, and so forth (cf. Eriksen 1995: 15). Erik- This means that anthropologists should "play
sen, for example, mentions the fact of "mastering the fool," that they should pretend not to under-

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480 Vesna V. Godina

stand logical work

the that had been framed by preparation
things the "at
home," fieldwork
anomalous overseas and my return with the data.
Instead, the research in question developed from
anthropologists in a set m
of social relationships that were originally identified as
topics and situation
and the same time "insiders" and "outsiders." part of my personal (rather than professional) life: the
study of migration through exploring representations of
Better yet, they choose situations in which they are
self that reflected aspects of my own experience; and
"outsiders" in a way very similar to that of theWest
technologies of the research, email and mail groups
European anthropologists in non-European fields.
that were part of my professional and social practices.
"Studying ethnic communities and the powerless
assures this" (Abu-Lughod 1991: 139), as well as The implications of this are that anthropology
studying "deviants - drug addicts, delinquents, at home "requires a constant shifting of posi-
pick pockets, prostitutes and thieves" (Burgess tionings between situations, people, identities and
1993: 23). However, practising participant obser-perspectives" (Amit 2000: 11). This "instability of
vation in such situations places anthropologists in ground" (Caputo 2000: 27) may be not only
a quite difficult position - that of becoming onea leading characteristic of anthropology at home,
of the deviants - drug addicts, delinquents, pickbut also "became a constant feature in carrying out
pockets, prostitutes, and thieves. Data have already in an urban site" (27).
been collected about the difficulties inherent in However, the change in location of the field also
the realisation of such fieldwork (cf. Adler 1985).implies a change in the concept of the research,
This did not constitute the only redefinition ofa change of the anthropologist's position, and
the research subject; some anthropologists also many changes in research methods. Concerning
chose to research ballet groups, yoga practitioners, the change in research concepts, one theorist has
au pair situations, and so forth.5 Field situationssaid,
and problems thus begin to vary dramatically.
. . . anthropologists may no longer be able to rely on
Fieldwork "at home" today includes - among other
a concept that traditionally has been as, if not more
odd subjects - studies such as the following: crucial than place for locating their field: the habitus of
collectivity. Episodic, occasional, partial and ephemeral
. . . sporadic dialogues with a former resident of a small
social links pose particular challenges for ethnographic
farming village in Northwest England; exploring chil-
fieldwork. How do we observe interactions that happen
dren's narratives and songs in Toronto; multilocale re-
sometimes but not necessarily when we are around?
search among black people diagnosed as "schizophren-
ic", ballet dancers and yoga adherents; shifting from do we participate in social relations that are not
continuous, that are experienced most viscerally in their
research among female bullfighters in Spain to research
absence? How do we participate in or observe practices
among Spanish graduate migrants in a variety of locales
that are enacted here and there, by one or a few? How
in Britain, from tutelage relations in Indian admin-
do we take into account unique events that may not be
istration to organized children's sports in the Lower
recurring but may still have irrevocable consequences:
Mainland of British Columbia, from ethnic lobbyists
a demonstration, a battle, a sports event (Malkki 1997)?
in Montreal to expatriate professionals in the Cayman
Islands (Amit 2000: 11). Where do we "hang out" when the processes which
we are studying produce common local conditions or
More specific problems emerge in connectionstatuses (freelance workers, peripatetic entrepreneurs,
with the difficulty of mastering such a field. Thus,consultants, tourists) but not necessarily coterminous
when the field is the same place as the home, collectivities? To cope with these conditions, it may not
there arises the question of where the field begins be sufficient or possible for anthropologists to simply
and the home ends. Sarah Pink (2000:96) has join in. They may have to purposively create the occa-
described such a situation: sions for contacts that might well be as mobile, diffuse
and episodic as the processes they are studying (Amit
Since many of my informants were also my friends, 2000: 14 f.).
my personal and professional lives were inextricably
interwoven into the research. I was usually unableAnother element, which has altered its signifi-
to dedicate time exclusively to research, therefore my cance, is the anthropologist as a fieldwork persona:
contact with informants was necessarily intermingled
Rather, my fieldworker persona was made up of a series
with other professional or social activities. The project's
of partial identities that abruptly shifted according to
structure varied significantly from the more convention-
changes in context. For example, while I worked in the
al narratives of my previous and subsequent anthropo-
field for several days of the week, I also kept in contact
with my home department. At times, predicaments that
arose in the field were discussed immediately with
5 Cf. Dyck 2000; Norman 2000; Strauss 2000; Wulff 2000.members of my advisory committee. I recall the meeting

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Anthropological Fieldwork at the Beginning of the 21st Century 481

I requested with one adviser after spending one has

er, this month
perhaps slightly greater validity for
in the field. The fieldwork was more stressful than
anthropology at home than for classical anthro-
I had imagined and I feared that I was not "getting pological fieldwork. In both cases, according to
my data", i.e., children's songs and stories. Self-doubt
Amit, "anthropology's strength is the ethnographic
and insecurity regarding ideas about "children's cultural
spotlight it focuses on particular lives, broadly
production" were put at ease as my adviser guided me
contextualized. In this focus, anthropology, at best,
through what, I learned later, was a typical stage of
research. I had the luxury of the immediacy of collapses
the the distinction between micro and macro
academic context for support. On the other hand, while challenges relocations of concepts such as
diaspora, state, globalization and so on which, in
this immediacy was beneficial in this instance, at other
times it made the fieldwork more difficult because of their geographic, political and social reach, can
easily appear distant and abstract" (15 f.). Neither
the continuous monitoring of my progress that resulted
from the contact (Caputo 2000: 27 f.). anthropology away from home nor anthropology at
home can control all important dimensions of the
An even further change involved the anthropol-field: "where, when, how and whom we encounter
can never be subject to our firm control" (Amit
ogist' s physical presence: what had once been the
sine qua non of anthropological fieldwork (Hastrup2000: 16). There are also some crucial common
and Hervik [eds.] 1994) collapsed. New methodselements between anthropologists on both sides
- E-mail, telephone calls, etc. - have become fre- of the question. In both cases an anthropologist's
quently used in anthropological fieldwork at home.fieldwork is a process of "othering" where the
Moreover, doing fieldwork at home presentssubject of anthropological fieldwork arises. The
us with yet a further question: that of disciplin- subject researched becomes the "other," to which
ary boundaries. "Anthropologists . . . conducting the anthropologist plays the "self." They both
fieldwork in the United States or Europe wonder create "self-other" relationships. However, this re-
whether they have not blurred the disciplinary lationship is far from being a relationship of two
boundaries between anthropology and other fields equal subjects. On the contrary, it includes sophis-
such as sociology ..." (Abu-Lughod 1991: 139). ticated hierarchization. "At the autobiographical
The issue is especially problematic because the level ethnographers and informants are equals;
common understanding of difference between an- but at the level of the anthropological discourse
thropology and sociology is related to the facttheir relationship is hierarchical. It is our [i.e.,
that anthropology involves participant observa- anthropologists'; V. V. G.] choice to encompass
tion fieldwork, and that anthropology is orient- their stories in a narrative of a different order.
ed towards non-industrial societies (cf. EriksenWe select the quotations and edit the statements"
1995: 19; Mair 1992). As is sufficiently evident, (Hastrup 1992: 122).
anthropology at home does not consider these bor- There is, however, one more common charac-
teristic of classical anthropological fieldwork and
ders. The incongruity of this is visible in one of its
effects: "it is known that at Oxford and Cambridgeanthropology at home which must be analysed in
it tended to be taboo to carry out anthropological further detail. This is the role of the observer, more
studies of one's own culture. . . . Even today, precisely, the observer from Western Europe or the
graduate students in anthropology in many leadingUnited States. In both cases the individual who
departments in North American academia are not knows, the one who concentrates the knowledge,
encouraged to study their own society" (DaMatta is the Western anthropologist. In both cases the
1994: 130, fn. 12). To phrase this differently: to
locus of knowledge is the same. It is evident that in
do fieldwork in one's own society is not to do both cases the construction of knowledge with all
anthropological fieldwork at all. What is missingits concomitant power resides safely in the hands
of Westerners.
is the problematic element in classical fieldwork,
namely the difference between cultures, between In contrast, the third variant of fieldwork - that
Western self, and non- Western other(s). done by native anthropologists in non-European
cultures and societies - redefines the crucial loca-
Although classical fieldwork and fieldwork
done at home differ in important ways, there is tion of knowledge. The possessor of knowledge
one highly significant common element. In both is, for the first time, a non-European. "A new
figure has entered the scene, the 'indigenous eth-
cases, "fieldwork 'away' as well as at 'home' [are]
nographer' . . ." (Clifford and Marcus 1986: 9). In
similarly episodic and fluid" (Amit 2000: 11). For
both practises it is true that "it is the circum-principle, the basic position of this new figure is
stance which defined the method rather than the identical to that of the West European anthropolo-
method defining the circumstance" (11); howev-gist studying West European societies. The non-

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482 Vesna V. Godina

European The anthropol non-E

culture and/or
has more socie p
home." However,
ting, and thi o
pean society or or/and she is n
society or/and informatio cultur
"however, be is shared not a p
to a Third be World able to co
Native closed
anthropologi to an
the native
non-European anth
America, fool in Asia. who A d
this "native example, anthrop M
fields called islanders; East Eur c
raphy.6 Also Despite connec the
increasinganthropolo number of
fact that disadvantag
new kinds
"more oranthropolo
less native
as the fact has that the todasam
anthropologist at home, who a
access to the
potential world s o
same'" (Norman Why then 2000
and more work anthropol as sp
today is cerns
partthe above mentioned dislocation
of of knowl- "na
the fact that
edge. For the first time, the"native
European monopoly of
tion in terms becau
anthropological knowledge is fractured. The power
classically to construct both truth and knowledge
was the is dislocated su
fieldworkbeyondand European borders. notThis is so in only ath
(cf. limited sense, however: the
Hastrup sense of "let them have
1993; W
Of course, native
their own truth," by which cultural relativism has a
other relegated non-Europeans to a safe ghetto
variants of - no less an
own and no more.
advantages and
anthropologist Nuku
tration of the advan
fieldwork3. New Perspectives
(1969: 19)
Because Iwas one of th
the fear
There is, nevertheless,
a fourth possibility, in-
of volving an and
subjects element missing in this symmetrical
general triadic system. This
were fourth possibility combines ab
because the non- West European
they knew anthropologist with Ithe co
informantsWest European
were field, or, to put it another
met way,
normally provides
don't the possibility for adivulge
non- West European
we shall give
anthropologist to do you
his or her fieldwork inall
a West t
European field (Tab. 1).

6 In East European countries during the socialist period social
and/or cultural anthropology did not exist. However, in
Field Non-European European
all countries there existed a very strong and powerful
West European classical anthropo- anthropo
tradition of ethnological and/or ethnographic research. This
research had, in most cases, taken place "at home"Researcher
- logical fieldwork home
i.e., in villages of the ethnologist's/ethnographer's own
Non- West European native anthropology fourth possibility
country. This is also the reason why many East EuropeanResearcher
ethnologists and/or ethnographers fail to see any difference
between West-anthropology - especially where West Eu-
ropean anthropology "at home" is in question - and their Most of the literature analysing fieldwork ex-
own ethnology/ethnography. I myself do insist that such an
cludes this fourth possibility (cf. Burgess 1993;
equation of terms is incorrect; however, most East European
ethnologists and/or ethnographers would not agree with myBurgess [ed.] 1994). This fourth possibility for the
position. anthropological tradition of fieldwork obviously

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Anthropological Fieldwork at the Beginning of the 21st Century 483

has no explicit existence - either theoretical

the location of or
knowledge involves the identity
practical.7 of the "one who knows." In both cases, the "one
It seems reasonable to query this who situation,
knows" is the West European anthropologist,
especially because, from a technical that
point ofWest
is, the view,European. This means that he or
such a variant of fieldwork wouldshe beiseminently
defined as the one who knows, and that
he or sheexists
practicable. The West European field already is defined as having a monopoly on
- in anthropology "at home." Non- West Because the locus of knowledge is
anthropologists already exist - in "native anthro-to the division of power (cf.
strongly connected
pology." The fourth variant, therefore, and Passeron
appears to 1977), this monopoly is a
be no more than a new combination of component
crucial already of his or her superior status.
The "native"
existent solutions. Why, therefore, should situation
such a is somewhat different
from that in the former two variants, since in this
combination not take its place in anthropological
fieldwork praxis? What could be the casereasons be-
it is the "native" anthropologist who occupies
hind such a paradoxical situation? the position of the "one who knows." This variant
One group of answers may be connected to the
thus constitutes the very first anthropological situa-
situation we have established as existing
tion in "native
in which the monopoly of knowledge is not in
anthropology" and "anthropology the
at home." The Europeans. The significance of
hands of West
fourth variant would complicate and this
even formultiply
the history of the anthropological discipline
is thatin
some of the difficulties already involved it "native
involves a concomitant dislocation of
anthropology" and "anthropology at superior
If, in the same sense and in the
however, this is sufficient reason forsameneglecting
direction. From this perspective, "native"
the fourth variant, then it follows that neither
anthropology can be understood as yet a further
step in the dislocation of anthropological science,
"anthropology at home" nor "native anthropology"
should be practised. Nevertheless, athey continue
process which began more than a hundred years
to be practised, and continue, despiteago.difficulties
Its initial step involved the relocation of
and limitations, to produce interesting away from "armchair" anthropologists
and valuable
results. These could probably also be andexpected out
towards early fieldworkers. Spencer and Gillen
of the fourth variant. perhaps provide the best illustration of this step (cf.
This conclusion suggests not only that
Stocking the
1995: 87-98). "Native" anthropologists
fourth variant is as acceptable as the
madeother three
the second crucial step in this direction when
variants of anthropological fieldwork, but also
they dislocated knowledge from the West Europe-
that other answers should be sought an fieldworker
to explain to the "natives" - i. e., non- Western
the current nonapplication of the fourth
- taking in the process another step into
Such answers may, indeed, exist, field. may be
connected with a largely invisible problem: Despite the of
that radical nature of this move, howev-
the location and/or dislocation of anthropological er, "native" anthropology has not yet made the cru-
knowledge. cial move in this act of dislocation. Although West
Perhaps we should begin with the common con- European anthropologists have lost their monopoly
stituents of all three variants of currently-practised on knowledge where non- West European fields
anthropological fieldwork. In the case of the first are in question, West European anthropologists
two - the classical variant and "anthropology at still preserve their monopoly on knowledge of
home" - the common underlying assumption about West European fields. They may no longer be the
only ones who know when the non- West European
world is in question, but they remain the only ones
7 Of the practical nonexistence of this possibility I have
myself been systematically convinced during the last fif- allowed to know when the West European world
teen years. After my stay in the U.S.A., I decided to is in question. This is their true home, in which
carry out my own fieldwork in that community. I made they are, de facto, "at home."
repeated efforts to organise the material grounds for this
It appears, then, that practising the fourth vari-
fieldwork, without success, however. It was totally beyond
the bounds of normal fieldwork schemes that someone from ant of anthropological fieldwork necessitates the
Eastern Europe should come to study, not the Indians but ending of this monopoly. Allowing a non- West
"civilised," modern Americans. This was doubly so for a European anthropologist to do fieldwork on a West
scholar who herself came from a "less civilised" and "less
European field means taking that crucial step in
modern" society. What could such a person have to say to
modern Americans, or to modern "civilised" science? This the dislocation of anthropological knowledge. It
was, no doubt, their version of a kind of nineteenth-century signifies an end to the situation in which West
evolutionistic argument. European anthropologists can claim a superior

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484 Vesna V. Godina

position this because

kind of fieldwork valuable data about East th
or better European traditions, including village life and so
of fieldwork thus
on, have been collected. resu
In general, the situation
West European in East European countries9 is such anthrthat, from
who know, the ethnographical and/or ethnological point
even wh of
is under consideration. view, these countries have been well researched
Such a dislocation of anthropological knowl-and described. What is missing is social and cultur-
edge has, however, even more serious conse- al anthropological analysis and evaluation of these
quences. As a result of this dislocation, non- West materials as well as traditional anthropological
European anthropologists will also gain the dom-fieldwork: i.e., observation with participation in
inant position of those who know (the positionthe "non-home" country or culture.
reserved up to now for West European anthro- It is precisely this situation which offers new
pologists), not only within the anthropological possibilities. Not only are all post-socialist coun-
discipline, but in relation to Western Europe intries new, still untried fields, waiting for anthropo-
general. A radical redefinition in roles and status logical discovery, but there are also social and/or
occurs for the first time under these new conditionscultural anthropologists in those countries who
of dominance. In this situation the West European are able to practise anthropological fieldwork in
becomes merely one more native - no better nor those fields. This means fieldwork not only in
worse than any other native, but simply one among their own countries and/or cultures - i. e., not only
others. "anthropology at home" - but also anthropology
This is evidently the pivotal consequence of carried out in the classical way - i. e., anthropo-
adoption of the fourth variant. It heralds a radical logical fieldwork in the "non-home" society or/and
and painful redefinition of West European selfhoodculture. In practising this last kind of anthro-
which must accompany any loss of its dominant pological fieldwork, East European social and/or
status. Moreover, it attacks one of the founding cultural anthropologists have several important
arguments with which West European dominance advantages in comparison with West European
of the world has been established, i. e., that "West-anthropologists. Among the most significant of
erners know." these is knowledge of local languages, for most
These arguments clearly demonstrate why forEast European anthropologists know one or more
West Europeans in general the fourth variant offoreign East European languages. This enables
anthropological fieldwork remains unacceptable,them not only to do classical, traditional anthro-
and why they resist becoming themselves "a field." pological fieldwork in "non-home" East European
From the perspective of the discipline of an- societies or/and cultures but also to read and study
thropology, however, the situation is completely rich ethnological and/or ethnographical evidence
reversed, especially if anthropology wishes to takewhich already exists in native local languages.
a stance independent of the West European politics Both activities constitute extremely important ba-
of world domination, or to end its status of "hege- ses for serious, in-depth anthropological research
monic European project" (Bowmann 1995: 108).
In addition there is one more new perspective
the usage "ethnology or ethnography" is customary. This
in the practise of anthropological fieldwork at the also applies to ethnological and ethnographical fieldwork.
beginning of the 21st century: this involves the In other countries, however, ethnology is more or less
practice of fieldwork in what is called the East strictly demarcated from ethnography. This is the situation
prevailing in Slovenia, where the distinction between eth-
European world or East European societies. For
nography (i. e., folkloristic study) and ethnology was estab-
political reasons, these societies had been excluded lished decades ago (cf. Kremensek 1995; Slavec-Gradisnik
until recently from classification as fields for an- 2000:74-105).
thropological fieldwork. This does not mean that 9 The term "East European countries" is being used some-
there has been no research done on the cultures what imprecisely in this text. With this term I indicate
all post-socialist countries. Obviously this means that in
and societies within these countries. However, the
my usage of the term, countries are included which,
kind of research which has been done has been
geographically, are part of Central Europe (for example,
ethnographic and ethnological fieldwork.8 With
Slovenia, Czech Republic, etc.). A much more precise
choice of terminology would be "post-socialist countries."
However, the term "East European countries" is generally
8 In different East European countries there have been differ-used in other texts when post-socialist countries are under
ing traditions in relation to ethnography and/or ethnology.consideration. For this reason I have adopted this term when
In some countries ethnology and ethnography are not strict-I am discussing all post-socialist countries (including East
ly separated into two different disciplines; in these cases,European and Central European post-socialist countries).

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Anthropological Fieldwork at the Beginning of the 21st Century 485

and analysis of East European societies and/or

larger research project "Urban Research" and which was
countries. funded by Slovene Ministry of Education, Science, and
The advantages of East European Sport.
gists when the East European field is in question
would seem to be sufficient to offer them an
opportunity to constitute themselves as "ones who
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Adler, Patrícia A.
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