Understanding Ethnography (Sixteen B)

12 Dec

“Ethnography” can be understood as “doing anthropology.” Based on the ethnographic film we watched (Chagnon + the Yanomamo), please respond to the following questions: What responsibilities do anthropologists have to the people they study? What are their obligations to the people they study? At what point does “helping them” (through trade/etc) actually hurt them? Use evidence from the readings below. Molly / Danny L / Eli will post

The Yanomami Controversy, in brief (http://zeroanthropology.net/2007/10/12/the-yanomami-controversy/)
The Yanomami Controversy, in depth (click on the first result here)
How to watch ethnographic films (http://tvmultiversity.blogspot.com/2011/01/way-of-looking-at-ethnographic-film.html)


33 Responses to “Understanding Ethnography (Sixteen B)”

  1. daniel lamport December 12, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    Anthropologists have a lot of responsibilities to the people that they study. The number one responsibility is for them to participate fully in all rituals and practices that the studied people do. Also, the information that the anthropologist receives from the people cannot fall into the wrong hands. Something which seems helpful (like giving the Yonomami machetes) can go horribly wrong. They can break into conflict with each other which could end in casualties and deaths. Also, publishing false information is bad for an anthropologist to do. In The Yanomami Controversy article, there are several accusations made against Chagnon and another anthropologist named Neel. Chagnon was accused of misrepresenting the Yanomami and saying that they’re more violent than they actually are.

    • Axel Aquino December 12, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

      I agree with Daniel because if anthropologists want to have valid research, then they must partake fully in the people’s activities. I also think that if the people share information with the anthropologists, then they shouldn’t share it with other people because that would just be betraying them.

    • David Rivas December 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

      I fully agree because the job of an anthropologists is to fully understand the life of others and by doing this they need to participate in all activities that the group does. Also the job of an anthropologists is sort of dangerous because they cannot let any of the information be in the wrong hands

    • Brittany Muscat December 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

      I agree with Daniel because anthropologists do have a lot of responsibilities with the people they study. Yes, giving machetes to the people you are studying may end up in disasters, their might be a lot of deaths and also it might change that culture’s ways. I also agree when Daniel said that if you publish wrong information, it’s bad if you’re an anthropologists, that’s because being an anthropologists you go all the way to a different place, do all that hard work and then once someone finds out that the information is wrong, you will know you did all that hard work for nothing.

    • Tim Hale Caparosa December 12, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

      I agree with Dan (the manport), as the study of ethnology is extremely important. It is important to understand the culture of others, in order to realize that there is no right or wrong way to live, or run a society. There are only different ways, which is what anthropology expresses. I do agree with the fact that information gained while researching is very important and not to be tampered with, also meaning it can’t be given to the wrong hands. I don’t feel like Napolean not treating the measels in the Yanomami tribe was wrong, as treating them would have been altering the natural culture of the tribe, not getting authentic information.

    • Jon-Paul Jones December 12, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

      I agree with Daniel because i feel like anthropologist do have various amounts of responsibilities. Anthropologist are obligated to do things that they aren’t use to doing in order to receive accurate information. These are consider job responsibilities/obligations.

    • ojayjay December 12, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

      I agree that a major responsibility for an anthropologist is to respect the studied culture. The point of an anthropologist is to learn about cultures by participating in their rituals and practices. Their responsibilities is supposed to be helping our society learn about these cultures in a positive manor, not to look at these cultures in a negative, weird perspective. Anthropologist Chagnon instead viewed his studied culture as a violent tribes that act in unmannered ways, the very opposite a anthropologist is supposed to view this culture. Just because the culture has different practices and rituals doesn’t mean the culture is doing the wrong things and practices because of the differences.

      -Jay Gregory

    • Nilufa Begum December 12, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

      I agree with Lamport when he says that Anthropologists have a lot of responsibilities to the people they study. You cannot just watch them behave the way they do. You need to become one of them and behave just like them in order to actually learn their cultures.

      • Christina Jenkins December 13, 2011 at 11:17 am #

        “Behave like them” even when their own beliefs conflict with your own? What if your own behavior changes their culture in some way – like giving them machetes, or teaching them English?

  2. mollysigner December 12, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    What responsibilities do anthropologists have to the people they study? What are their obligations to the people they study? At what point does “helping them” (through trade/etc) actually hurt them?

    I think one of the responsibilities that anthropologists have is to respect their culture. They need to do as much as they can to “fit in” and not be a “guest” but just another one of the people from the tribe. Of course as being part of it, it means doing the same things. Which they also have to respect. Unless it directly affects their studies, or have a way to keep getting data and building the trust, then do so. Or alternate if you must, to help gain the respect. It means they can’t really bring in other cultures, other “worlds” as well. This is just about them, studying them and understanding them as a culture.
    As for “helping them” I feel that to a certain point it’s good. If it also means gaining respect and trust as well is a good thing or studying them would be very hard. However once you open the door to other cultures and bringing things that aren’t in their world yet I think that ruins them. An example is the machetes given to the Yanomami tribe by Napoleon. Yes it would be good for hunting, however, it throws their world into unbalance. They don’t have all of these “gadgets” yet and it distrupts their world, their culture.

    • Kelsey jean-Baptiste December 12, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

      I agree with you completely, especially with the matches example, if you give them the matches they will no longer use there old ways of how to make fire. It could cause major change in their culture. I also agree with the fact that the responsibilities of a anthropologists are very extreme, and they should know when they are doing the right thing or they should know when they are totally out of place. I feel like if anthropologists don’t fit in to the culture, it shows a great disrespect to them. This can cause many issues for the anthropologists, because the people may get very mad at this and start to threaten the anthropologist or even might try to kill them like what happened to Napoleon Chagnon.

      • Christina Jenkins December 13, 2011 at 11:18 am #

        It sounds like you believe anthropologists should “fit in,” but should also not give gifts (like matches) because that will change their culture. Isn’t this a conflict? What if “fitting in” also means giving gifts? Hmm…

    • Christy C. December 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

      I agree with you. The responsibilities that Anthropologist have to the Yanomamo was that they had to respect their religion/culture. Due to the video we watched in class, the obligations of the people the Anthropologist learned were that if the Anthropologist wanted something from the Yanomamo, they need to trade something of theirs to gain what they want. For example, in a video I watched during class, Napoleon wanted some answers from the Yanomamo for his research; therefore, he must trade his car and other electronics for it because it wouldn’t be fair for these people if they received nothing. At some point, helping the Yanomamo can hurt them in the future because over time, it may give the idea that we are trying to be disrespectful towards them because they may think we are trying to change their religion and culture.

    • Nathalie December 12, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

      I agree, I think that as an anthropologist you should try your best to understand and be apart of the culture you’re studying. Their responsibility is to respect and gain the trust of the people they are studying as well as following the rules of being in the culture. For example, if trading gifts and being a generous person is a requirement, then the anthropologist must follow this rule. I think that “helping” them does have its limits. The anthropologist should not interfere with the culture and their everyday life, such as the situation mentioned in this post with the machetes. Giving the Yanomami tribe this weapon could have increased the violence as opposed to actually helping them. When anthropologists interfere with the culture it destroys the true meaning of being a part of the Yanomami tribe, therefore their responsibility as an anthropologist is also to know the limit between helping a culture and hurting it .

  3. Elijah F. December 12, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    I think that when it comes to anthropologist there are certain responsibility’s that are required to enter the field of work or do your job properly. I think one obligations that they should and have to meet is to learn that language that is spoken. Another they should build up a level of friendship between them and the people, and it shouldn’t be by bribery. i think that if you are starting to get real close with the village, you shouldn’t over help because then you wont see what will happen when it comes to that specific culture. For example by giving them guns or some type of warfare, you won’t see the way they act without that type of equipment. You wanna be as precise as possible so it doesn’t come out different than someone else that does the same people/culture as you. You also wanna make sure not to hurt them as well because then you hurt your self and future anthropologist.

    • Brittany Muscat December 12, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

      I agree with Elijah when he said that learning the language is really important because if you don’t know what they’re saying at all, or if you need something, how are you going to interact with them? How are you supposed to get the details for your anthropology work? That’s really important.

    • dannykw December 12, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

      I agree with you. You are right that people should not change the way a culture would normally handle their own situation. Also it is had for people to get close with new people with out bribes to open them up, but you are right how they should just be friends and learn about them with out anything extra.

      P.S. You for got to capitalize the “I”
      P.S.S.”i think that if you are starting to get real close with the village, you shouldn’t over help because then you wont see what will happen when it comes to that specific culture.”- It is not understandable.

    • Kelsey jean-Baptiste December 12, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

      I agree with elijah, because if the anthropologist bribes the tribe then the video is somehow fake and it isn’t real. This also shows that in a way you aren’t a good anthropologist, because if you were I feel that you should be working hard to get the information that you need. I don’t think that you should be taking the easy way out and not trying as hard as other people are for the information. Building friendships with the certain people in the tribe are really good because it allows you to expand your field of work and maybe even bring some more people with you the next time.

    • zineb December 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

      I agree with Elijah when he mentions that in order to do your job properly as an anthropologist you must build a level of friendship between your self and the culture you are trying to learn about. This friendship must be a real friendship where both sides truthful and have nothing to hide inside of bribing the other side into a friendship by offering them valuable goods. I disagree when Elijah says you should not help the village. I think you should help if you see that the country is somehow corrupted and needs help. Anthropologist should not only observe a environment but help in anyway needed and record how it was before you helped it and after. Helping them should not be giving them violent weapons but giving them food, shelter, education etc.

      • Christina Jenkins December 13, 2011 at 11:28 am #

        What if “helping” them changes their culture? What if an anthropologist taught them English? What if education changed their society?

    • Christina Jenkins December 13, 2011 at 11:21 am #

      Thanks for your thoughts, Eli – I agree with you on the language. I think if the anthropologist has to rely on an interpreter, that adds a level of translation that may interfere with the research. (Speaking of language, please clean up your own. “Wanna”!?)

    • aaronmidyette December 14, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

      I agree with Elijah, learning the language of a place your visiting for an anthropological study. about bribing people, it makes me wonder how you can leave no impact on a people but still gather information. helping should not be apart of the visit because then how would anyone know how the situation would have been handled without the aid.

  4. Jessica Koneval December 12, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    The responsibilities that anthropologists have to the people they study, is to be ready to completely understand and participate in the peoples daily routine. be it something they find wrong, or against, they should do it anyway because it is their job as an anthropologist. They need to try their hardest to fit in and become one of the people, as hard as it might sound. the obligations to the people they study is to respect them completely. they have to try as hard as they can not to bring their own culture and well being into the picture. its only about becoming one of them and understanding them. nothing more nothing less. I think that any form of ‘helping them’ is going to hurt them. If the anthropologist is there, they shouldn’t interfere with anything be it the trade, culture, or how they do things. they shouldn’t do anything along those lines because it will affect them, and how their culture really is. the anthropologist is just a ‘guest’ to these people. they re watching them, not trying to help the,.

  5. Taylor Cranford December 12, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    Some responsibilities anthropologists have when they study the way other countries live is to be respectful to them and their way of life, meaning living the way they live while the anthropologist is studying them. They have to fully participate in every part of their culture while they are there, for two reasons. One being to be respectful towards the people since he is invading their country’s privacy, and second being so they can fully understand their way of life by living it themselves.
    There is a fine line between helping the people their studying and hurting them. For example, when Chagnon visited the Yanomamo he gave them machettes to be used for hunting and for protecting themselves from raids, but he gave them the weapons mostly as a bribe so he could study them and invade their lives. When Chagnon made the video of their country the weapons made Yanomamo appear much more violent then they actually are, making “outsiders” see them as an extremely violent country.

  6. Chloe N. December 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    What responsibilities do anthropologists have to the people they study?

    To become an anthropologist, I believe that person must first understand the responsibilities they have to take on; all of which change depending on who exactly they are studying. In this case, Napolean Chagnon owes the people of the Yonomami tribe all their due respect, seeing as they are coming onto their land with foreign objects (camera, microphone) and planning to leave with intentions of exposing their culture to the world. Some of the responsibilities included in studying a different culture are staying loyal to their customs. I agree with Molly on the fact that they have to try as hard as they can to “fit in,” while trying to make it seem natural. For example, the Yonomami tribe had frequently uses a hallucination drug as a spiritual practice. This is one of the things an anthropologist should be aware of, and prepared to practice as well. Their is not a very apparent line between doing good and doing bad by giving gifts. For example, giving the Yonomami weapons was both a good and bad thing. Good in the sense that they could now protect themselves against the raiders, and bad in the sense that they turned on each other and became more violent. I think Napolean could have rethought what kind of gift he would choose to give them; something that would have benefitted them significantly more than done them harm.

  7. mingrc December 12, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    Anthropologist’s responsibilities to the people they study are “helping them” and studying them. Nothing else. Giving them weapons is not helping them. It’s altering their culture and making their research in accurate. Anthropologists are supposed to be observing cultures and participating in cultures if they are doing fieldwork. Chagon depicted the Yanomami as violent people, but they were less violent than other tribes. There is a thin line between helping and hurting a community. Chagon did not help them at all. Helping stopped when contributed to violent actions by giving them new goods and weapons like machetes. An anthropologist should be able to help people without hurting others. He also made the spread of measles even worse than it was before. Chagon did not show accurate footage because he staged everything that happened on camera.

    • Christina Jenkins December 13, 2011 at 11:23 am #

      “Helping”? What’s helping? Is that the same as “not hurting”? Does giving vaccines count as “helping”?

  8. iWowk December 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    There are many responsibilities that anthropologists must have towards the group of people they are studying. One of the most vital responsibilities is that they must participate in any of the groups’ rituals/cultural practices. Also, in terms of the Yanomami(?) when gathering information on them, anthropologists must be mindful on how they are treating the people; for instance, one must not be greedy and should be able to gain the Yanomamis’ trust in order to obtain accurate information. Anthropologists should be able to “be apart of them” as much as possible. Finally, an anthropologist responsibility is to try and bring in less of their culture into the culture of the group of people whom they are studying; they want to gain information on the group of people, and they will be able to do that by not bringing in outside influences.
    “helping them” through trade will also start to harm the society anthropologists are studying. Although the new machinery brought over by Napolean, such as machetes, much seem cool to the Yanomami, in reality, the new tools would result in an increase in violence and how things are done. By introducing things that are not yet present in the Yanomami culture yet would most likely disrupt the balance and social norms within the tribe.

    • ser5599 December 13, 2011 at 10:57 am #

      I agree with everything you said.

  9. Alyssa Prescott December 12, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    The responsibilities that anthropologists have are to not try to change the people’s culture but to learn it and try it themselves. I think that it would be wrong to come into a group/culture and change the way they live on a daily basis. Changing the Yanomami culture for research would not be fair to the people because it is what makes them different then us. I agree with Molly because instead of trying to fit in with the Yanomami tribe, you should attempt to be part of the Yanomami tribe. I think that if you truly become one of them you will accept their ways and behaviors.

  10. Albert S. December 12, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    I agree with Daniel because an anthropologists has his responsibilities when it comes to the people that they study. They have many responsibilities because in order to be trusted by cultures they need to participate with the culture in order to be respectful of that culture. Also it is good for an anthropologist to participate with these cultures in order to gain research about their people. I agree when Daniel talked about it being dangerous if the information was to fall into the wrong hands because this information can be used to harm the Yanomamo.

  11. Julissa Bonilla December 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    The responsibilities of an anthropologist is to try to fit in to the tribe. The way they do this is by doing what everybody else in the tribe does like if they take drugs and eat certain food anthropologist have to take that drug and eat that certain food. Also, they should not get misinformation because all the work they did would be worth nothing. So to not get misinformation anthropologist should gain the peoples trust. There obligation are to not change anything the tribe normally does because that could interfere with their culture. The point that helping them hurts them is when they trade weapons.

  12. Christina Jenkins December 12, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

    After reading the New Yorker article, I’m wondering about the price that others must pay for the work of the anthropologist. It seems so selfish, in a way, to join a group of and expect that they would accommodate your questions, your own “foreign” habits, etc. According to the New Yorker, Chagnon participated in an attempt to give the Yanomamo a measles vaccine that is no longer used in the US (for health/safety concerns), and that resulted in a huge measles outbreak. In another episode, Chagnon seems to have traded machetes and other weapons to the Yanomamo in exchange for their cooperation.

    Is that ethical? Was it responsible for them to attempt to deliver vaccines, even if they seem to have seen it as a “study” and not an exercise in altrusim? Is the work of the anthropologist EVER ethical? When?

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