Be An Anthropologist Mini ethnography
The goal of this exercise is to observe a ‘cultural scene’ as an anthropologist would (i.e. based on everything you have learned in the course to-date). The student will analyze their observations in terms of themes from the subfield of cultural anthropology such as how it helps frame our societies (family, lifestyle, lineage, language and communication) and, in some ways, its evolution.
Culture as we have discussed in our readings is an incredible advantage that has allowed humans to enter almost every niche in nature. The development and maintenance of culture is what sets humans apart from other species. Culture varies by time and location. For this assignment, students will be observing a particular setting for 25 minutes, writing up your observations, and then analyzing them.
1) Choose a time and location for where/when you are going to conduct your observations of an ethnographic scene (mall, public transportation, coffee shop, etc.).
2) Go to the specified location and proceed with your observations. Find a place to sit quietly and to simply watch what is going on. Do not talk to or interview people during this time.
3) Take notes (handwritten recommended). Include details about the scene itself (time of day, lighting, furniture, plants, sounds, temperature, smell, vibe/energy, etc), details about the people around you (their characteristics, their behavior).
4) When your 25 minutes are finished, leave the scene. In a quiet place, fill out your notes. At this time, you should start to think about concepts that you’ve learned in class that fit with your observations. This step is critical.Define and discuss culture using our course materials
Include a ‘thick description’ of the location with clear detail of your observations
Analyze your observations, identifying four anthropological concepts that fit your observations. Define the concept and analyze how it fits your observations.
What is an anthropological concept? Anthropological concepts are anthropological terms and ideas. Examples of some that we’ve studied include: ethnocentrism, ethnicity, reciprocity, kinship, language and communication. You should not use this exact list of four concepts and expect them to fit your observation scene. You may, of course, use others – depending on what concepts are relevant to your observation. Lists of additional key concepts can be found in Lessons, in the Lesson Overview section. We also have two examples to share with you anthropologists- one from Jennifer Cramer’s fieldwork in The Gambia and one from James Turner’s fieldwork in Mexico.
One common misstep is to apply the four subfields of anthropology or to apply the four parts of the definition of culture.
Conclude with a discussion of and reflection on your experience of the situation. For example you might write how you felt when you started to detect a pattern in characteristics and/or behavior.