ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From 50 Years Ago: The Tribulations of Fieldwork

Vol VII, Nos 31–32–33 AUGUST 5, 1972

The Tribulations of Fieldwork

Andre Beteille

Even though most social anthropologists recognise the need for accounts of how they actually faced the problems of field investigation, few of them present such accounts in a systematic way. Sometimes we get glimpses into their actual methods of investigation from the cases they present in their substantive work. But these are often given in passing, in a different context and in too fragmented a form for the reader to be able to get a rounded picture of how the work was actually done. Perhaps the majority of the anthropologists are deterred in the end by the thought that an account of this nature would be too personal to be of interest to anyone other than the investigator himself.

Surprisingly enough, the few personal records that we do have from sociologists and social anthropologists of their field experiences have been of very wide interest in the profession. Perhaps the best known of these is the account provided by the American sociologist, William Foote Whyte. Whyte made an unusual study in the thirties of comer boys, college boys, racketeers and politicians in an urban district in the United States. In a lengthy Appendix to the revised edition of his book, “Street Comer Society”, he gave a detailed account of the actual ways in which he came to grips with the world he had set out to study. This Appendix is now an invaluable guide for the training of students in the method of participant-observation.


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Updated On : 1st Aug, 2022
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