What are some of the problems faced by anthropologists while they are in the field? How might some of the problems encountered be transformed into a learning experience for the anthropologist?
Name: Sheila Baptista
One of the problems faced by anthropologists in fieldwork is the culture shock of going from their normal environment to a more primitive, or less modernized, setting. Often times, they find themselves immersed in a culture that they have very little understanding of, and what knowledge they do possess, may not necessarily be current or valid. Before embarking on any kind of fieldwork, it is not only important to do the necessary research on the subject matter at hand, but it is also important to ensure that the literature being used is relevant and reliable. Ethnographic data from 20 or 30 years ago may describe rituals and practices that may be obsolete, and the authors of some of the literature may not necessarily be anthropologists. What was relevant decades ago may not necessarily be applicable today.
In an ideal world, any field worker should not approach the people they are studying with any preconceived notions, or on the basis of their own personal beliefs. I believe it’s human nature that makes anyone going into new territory rely on what they know or believe, but it is imperative for one to let go of one’s inhibitions to fully understand and enjoy the experience. It’s the difference between observing with one’s eyes, and taking part with one’s emotions, sometimes just for the sake of it.
Another important barrier would be language. Some cultures have hundreds, and even thousands, of languages, and some, or most, of the indigenous languages may not even be recorded. Communication, both verbal and non-verbal, is vital if one expects to integrate oneself with the society they intend to study.
Disease and illness is another problem. The fieldworker may be immunized against certain illnesses, but the people they...