Fieldwork the ethnographers is what they have been
Fieldwork in anthropology is seen as the traditional hallmark of the discipline since Malinowski’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922) was published. The monograph brought a paradigm shift into the whole process of writing about the so called “the others”. It opened up a whole new discourse about the perception and representation of ethnographic texts from the once dominant arm chair tradition. Malinowski’s method of participant observation and his fieldwork techniques became the path providers for upcoming generations. Although there were many other anthropologists who had been to the field before Malinowski and written about the people and described their culture and society. For example expeditions of Torres Strait in the finishing years of nineteenth century, W.H.R Rivers visit to the Todas of Nilgiri Hills in Southern India and A.R Radcliffe-Browns visit to the Andaman Islands were some of the initial ethnographic visits which prepared the base for further explorations. The initial ethnographies were mostly based upon the methods devised by the master ethnographers of the disciplines such as Malinowski and Evans Pritchard who have worked extensively among the Nuer of Sudan. With the introduction of new theoretical and technological paradigms, ethnographic research also saw a structural and functional shift in its performance and end result. Majority of the Magnum opus of ethnography were scribbled down during the colonial times. The representation of colonial interests by the ethnographers is what they have been accused later by the critics of colonialism and subaltern studies. Anthropology as a discipline was struggling to keep its identity intact and along with shifting paradigms of thoughts and knowledge after scholars such as Clifford Geertz, James Marcus published their critical views about ethnographic representation. In brief ethnography although has always been central to the discipline of anthropology for providing information about the societies which were once uncontacted to ongoing global networking and internet societies, but as per the law of nature – change is essential to evolve , ethnography has also seen various twists and twirls to attain maturity. This maturity is reflected in terms of its methodological and descriptive strategies which altogether have given a fresh identity to anthropology uplifting it up from the phase of the ‘representation crisis’. What ethnography is all about is the initial theme of this paper. We know what we attain from ethnography but defining it in terms of its operation is also important. Ethnography is a methodology- a theory, or set of ideas- about research that rests on a number of fundamental criteria. Ethnography is iterative-inductive that is to say it involves in design through the study, it draws through a family of methods, involving direct and sustained contact with human agents , within the contexts of their daily lives, watching what happen, listening to what is said, and asking questions. It results in production of richly written accounts of the societies that respect the irreducibility of human experience, acknowledges the role theory plays ,as well as the researchers own role , and views humans as part object/part subject. There should also be clarification between the terms –fieldwork, participant observation and ethnography. To be clear; ethnography is a methodology, participant observation is a method and fieldwork refers to the period of primary data collection that is conducted in the field outside library.1 Ethnography, then is never just recollection; it is a reflection, an examination of, and an argument about experience made from a particular standpoint, one that responds to questions which have their roots in the history of anthropological thinking. As ethnographers draw their works on anthropological concepts and discussions there is always a gap between the knowledge of experience put forward in ethnographic representation and the local ways of knowing and making sense of the world the ethnography is trying to represent and explain on its behalf. All ethnography, then is molded by the inevitability of dealing with the gaps between life and text, and between native, local and anthropological perspectives.2.