what participant observation is, what it involves, and why it is an important method in cultural anthropology.

Readings: Miller Ch. 2 + Conformity and Conflict [C&C] Eating Christmas in the Kalahari, p. 15

Fieldwork is the core activity in cultural anthropology. These readings will introduce you to the methods and problems that some researchers have experienced. The sites in the material section represent different styles of fieldwork. Read enough of each fieldworkers experience to understand the goals and problems of their work.

This week also has your first writing assignment. Reread the syllabus to remind yourself of the formal academic writing conventions for these assignments. Be sure to include citations for all quoted or paraphrased material. Only assignments posted by Sunday night will be accepted and graded.

After finishing this chapter, students should know:

♦how the research goals of cultural anthropology influence the selection of methods for data gathering and analysis.
♦understand the difference between etics and emics.
♦be familiar with the history of fieldwork in cultural anthropology.
♦what participant observation is, what it involves, and why it is an important method in cultural anthropology.
♦about several special types of data gathered by cultural anthropologists and what they reveal.
♦how do microcultural differences affect research in cultural anthropology?
♦the general differences between qualitative and quantitative data, how they are analyzed, and what they reveal.
♦discuss how the goals and concepts of cultural materialists compared to interpretivists affect their choice of fieldwork methods and write-up.
♦what are some ethical and safety issues in cultural anthropology research?


CA02 Fieldwork Problems ( text book Conformity and Conflict by Allyn and Bacon Pubs….)

Chapter: 2 Lee

What problems did Richard Lee ‘s gift of a Christmas ox present? What was the misunderstanding and what values was it based on? Have you ever experienced a cultural misunderstanding? How did you resolve it? What do you think Lee could have done to improve the situation?

Below is the other student responed –You must respone both of their post wheather you agree/ disagree in complete thought and paragraph to recieve credit for the assignment


Richard Lee’s gift of an Ox brought nothing but negative comments about his present that he believed was one of the greatest gift that the !Kung could have received from someone outside of their culture. Not having a full understanding one’s culture can cause conflicts and misunderstandings such as the one between Lee and the !Kung Bushmen. The way Lee went about boasting on how big of an Ox he had to present for Christmas day, was found as being arrogant and would cause him to think that he was more than what he was in that culture. That is not accepted in the !Kung Bushmen culture.

I think Mr. Lee experiencing that minor situation taught his a lesson. Which he should have learned that when going into another culture, things that one would normally do in their culture should not be done in another not having a full understanding of the culture that you are studying, or just observe and ask questions before just assuming.

I have encounter many cultural misunderstandings. One while on vacation in Jamaica, where the women thought I was also an Jamaican and they flipped out on me when I did not greet them as if I knew that I was suppose to, which in their culture in parts of Jamaica greeting one another is a major issue. But after explaining to them that I was not apart of their cultural however they did apologized once everything was cleared up and explained the reason for their rudeness.


One problem presented by Richard Lee’s gift of a Christmas ox was that his gift to them was not a gift given freely, it was given with the expectation of gratitude from the !Kung and their ridicule of his choice made him angry due to the lack of appreciation they showed.

Lee misunderstood the intentions of the !Kung. They were not trying to be mean or make fun of Lee’s gift, they were actually treating him as one of their own but he failed to realize this. The value that this custom is based on is humility—the act of ridiculing what one man has hunted is meant to keep him from considering himself better than anyone else because he brought back a big catch.

I believe that if Lee had paid more attention to the Bushmen he was supposedly studying, he would have seen this ritual performed over and over during the time he spent with them and the situation would have never occurred. But, when it did, he should have gone to the Tswana man who married into the !Kung’s to ask why the Bushmen were teasing him so, when he knew the ox he had chosen was a good one.
ETA: I forgot to address one of the questions. I have not ever experienced a cultural misunderstanding personally, but there is still time!

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