‘If the Dogon…’ Thoughts on the approaches to ethnography

The first thing that struck me as interesting in this article was Mary Douglas’ approach to ethnography as a whole. What now seems trivial when reading fieldwork based on opinionated perception, as in the actual subjectivity of it, led me to sit and ponder about how different a human approach to the same ethnographic research would be. Douglas touches upon this only briefly, but allows the reader to see how dramatic this small detail is. Douglas tells of a historical stroke of luck that has saved the historical interpretation of the Dogon, solely due to the fact that ethnographic fieldwork was undertaken by French researchers and not the British!

‘Some of the differences between the two schools of ethnography depend on concentration of time and effort.’ Ethnographic focus differs greatly not only due to the nature of the society in which it is taught, but ever so increasingly, the individual person who creates and formulates these opinions. With the access to information so readily available in the twenty-first century, the world has become more of a ‘familiar’ place, with an array of  differentiated perception and opinion. When one learns of the ‘Anthropology’ discipline, they are told of the unavoidable element of subjective bias in each piece of fieldwork. Some may see this as a critique and this is perfectly acceptable when limited fieldwork in specific subjects exist. However, if this is applied to the ever expanding ‘Anthropological’ based literature that exists, I see it only as an opportunity to expanding understanding and knowledge of the world. I draw this conclusion in line to the notion that opinion is neither correct nor incorrect, thus underlining the importance of drawing from personal perspective.


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