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ANTHROPOLOGY FOURTH EDITION
H. Russell Bernard
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Bernard, H. Russell (Harvey Russell), 1940- Research methods in anthropology: qualitative and quantitative approaches / H.
Russell Bemard.-4th ed. p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-7591-0868-4 (cloth: alk. paper) ISBN 0-7591-0869-2 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Ethnology-Methodology. I. Title.
GN345.B36 2006 301 '.072-dc22 2005018836
Printed in the United States of America
@ ™The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.
l . Anthropology and the Social Sciences 1
2. The Foundations of Social Research 28
3. Preparing for Research 69
4. The Literature Search 96
5. Research Design: Experiments and Experimental Thinking 109
6. Sampling 146
7. Sampling Theory 169
8. Nonprobability Sampling and Choosing Informants 186
9. Interviewing: Unstructured and Semistructured 210
10. Structured Interviewing I: Questionnaires 251
11. Structured Interviewing II: Cultural Domain Analysis 299
12. Scales and Scaling 318
13. Participant Observation 342
14. Field Notes: How to Take Them, Code Them, Manage Them 387
15. Direct and Indirect Observation 413
16. Introduction to Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis 451
17. Qualitative Data Analysis I: Text Analysis 463
18. Qualitative Data Analysis II: Models and Matrices 522
549 19. Univariate Analysis
20. Bivariate Analysis: Testing Relations 594
21. Multivariate Analysis 649
Appendix A: Table of Random Numbers 697
Appendix B: Table of Areas under a Normal Curve 700
Appendix C: Student's t Distribution 703
Appendix D: Chi-Square Distribution Table 704
Appendix E: FTables for the .05 and .01 Levels of Significance 706
Appendix F: Resources for Fieldworkers 710
Subject Index 771
Author Index 791
About the Author 803
P articipant observation fieldwork is the foundation of cultural anthropol ogy. It involves getting close to people and making them feel comfortable
enough with your presence so that you can observe and record information about their lives. If this sounds a bit crass, I mean it to come out that way. Only by confronting the truth about participant observation-that it involves deception and impression management-can we hope to conduct ourselves ethically in fieldwork. Much more about this later.
Participant observation is both a humanistic method and a scientific one. It produces the kind of experiential knowledge that lets you talk convincingly, from the gut, about what it feels like to plant a garden in the high Andes or dance all night in a street rave in Seattle.
It also produces effective, positivistic knowledge-the kind that can move the levers of the world if it gets into the right hands. Nancy Scheper-Hughes (1992), for example, developed a nomothetic theory, based on participant observation, that accounts for the tragedy of very high infant mortality in northeast Brazil and the direct involvement of mothers in their infants' deaths. Anyone who hopes to develop a program to lower the incidence of infant mor tality in that part of the world will certainly have to read Scheper-Hughes's analysis.
And participant observation is used in product development and other direct applications research-that is, where the object from the start is to solve a human problem. Brigitte Jordan and her team of ethnographers at Xerox cor poration determined the information flow and the hierarchy of interactions in the operations room of a major airline at a metropolitan airport (Jordan 1992b ). And when credit-card readers were first installed on gasoline pumps in the early 1990s, consumers avoided using the technology. John Lowe and a team of participant observers figured out why (Solomon 1993).
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Romancing the Methods
It used to be that the skills for doing fieldwork were mysterious and unteachable, something you just learned, out there in the field. In the 1930s, John Whiting and some of his fellow anthropology students at Yale University asked their professor, Leslie Spier, for a seminar on methods. "This was a subject to discuss casually at breakfast,e" Whiting recalls Spier telling him, not something worthy of a seminar (Whiting 1982:156). Tell this story to seasoned anthropologists at a convention, and it's a good bet they'll come back with a story of their own just like it.
It's fine for anthropologists to romanticize fieldwork-vulcanologists and oceanographers do it, too, by the way-particularly about fieldwork in places that take several days to get to, where the local language has no literary tradi tion, and where the chances are nontrivial of coming down with a serious ill ness. Research really is harder to do in some places than in others. But the fact is, anthropologists are more likely these days to study drug use among urban African Americans (Dei 2002), the daily life of the mentally retarded in a common residence (Angrosino 1997), the life of police in Los Angeles (Barker 1999), army platoons in Britain (Killworth 1997), consumer behavior (Sherry 1995), gay culture (Herdt 1992; Murray 1992), or life on the mean streets of big cities (Bourgois 1995; Fleisher 1998) than they are to study iso lated tribal or peasant peoples. It would take a real inventory to find out how much more likely, but in a recent collection of 17 self-reflective studies of anthropologists about their fieldwork (Hume and Mulcock 2004), just three cases deal with work in isolated communities. (For more on street ethnogra phy, see Agar 1973, Weppner 1973, 1977, Fleisher 1995, Lambert et al. 1995, Connolly and Ennew 1996, Gigengack 2000, and Kane 2001.)
And while participant observation in small, isolated communities has some special characteristics, the techniques and skills that are required seem to me to be pretty much the same everywhere.
What Is Participant Observation?
Participant observation usually involves fieldwork, but not all fieldwork is participant observation. Goldberg et al. ( 1994) interviewed 206 prostitutes and collected saliva specimens (to test for HIV and for drug use) during 53 nights of fieldwork in Glasgow's red light district. This was serious fieldwork, but hardly participant observation.
So much for what participant observation isn't. Here's what it is: Partici pant observation is one of those strategic methods I talked about in chapter
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1 -like experiments, surveys, or archival research. It puts you where the action is and lets you collect data . . . any kind of data you want, narratives or numbers. It has been used for generations by positivists and interpretivists alike.
A lot of the data collected by participant observers are qualitative: field notes taken about things you see and hear in natural settings; photographs of the content of people's houses; audio recordings of people telling folktales; videotapes of people making canoes, getting married, having an argument; transcriptions of taped, open-ended interviews, and so on.
But lots of data collected by participant observers are quantitative and are based on methods like direct observation, questionnaires, and pile sorts. Whether you consider yourself an interpretivist or a positivist, participant observation gets you in the door so you can collect life histories, attend rituals, and talk to people about sensitive topics.
Participant observation involves going out and staying out, learning a new language (or a new dialect of a language you already know), and experiencing the lives of the people you are studying as much as you can. Participant obser vation is about stalking culture in the wild-establishing rapport and learning to act so that people go about their business as usual when you show up. If you are a successful participant observer, you will know when to laugh at what people think is funny; and when people laugh at what you say, it will be because you meant it to be a joke.
Participant observation involves immersing yourself in a culture and learn ing to remove yourself every day from that immersion so you can intellectual ize what you've seen and heard, put it into perspective, and write about it con vincingly. When it's done right, participant observation turns fieldworkers into instruments of data collection and data analysis.
The implication is that better fieldworkers are better data collectors and bet
ter data analyzers. And the implication of that is that participant observation is not an attitude or an epistemological commitment or a way of life. It's a craft. As with all crafts, becoming a skilled artisan at participant observation takes practice.
Some Background and History
Bronislaw Malinowski ( 1884-1942) didn't invent participant observation, but he is widely credited with developing it as a serious method of social research. A British social anthropologist (born in Poland), Malinowski went out to study the people of the Trobriand Islands, in the Indian Ocean, just before World War I. At the time, the Trobriand Islands were a German posses-
345 Participant Observation
sion, so when the war broke out, Malinowski was interned and could not return to England for three years.
He made the best of the situation, though. Here is Malinowski describing his methods:
Soon after I had established myself in Omarkana, Trobriand Islands, I began to take part, in a way, in the village life, to look forward to the important or festive events, to take personal interest in the gossip and the developments of the village occurrences; to wake up every morning to a new day, presenting itself to me more or less as it does to the natives …. As I went on my morning walk through the village, I could see intimate details of family life, of toilet, cooking, taking of meals; I could see the arrangements for the day's work, people starting on their errands, or groups of men and women busy at some manufacturing tasks.
Quarrels, jokes, family scenes, events usually trivial, sometimes dramatic but always significant, form the atmosphere of my daily life, as well as of theirs. It must be remembered that the natives saw me constantly every day, they ceased to be interested or alarmed, or made self-conscious by my presence, and I ceased to be a disturbing element in the tribal life which I was to study, altering it by my very approach, as always happens with a newcomer to every savage community. In fact, as they knew that I would thrust my nose into everything, even where a well-mannered native would not dream of intruding, they finished by regarding me as a part and parcel of their life, a necessary evil or nuisance, mitigated by donations of tobacco. (1961 :7-8)
Ignore the patronizing rhetoric about the "savage communitye" and "dona tions of tobacco." (I've learned to live with this part of our history in anthro pology. Knowing that all of us, in every age, look quaint, politically incorrect, or just plain hopeless to those who come later has made it easier.) Focus instead on the amazing, progressive (for that time) method that Malinowski advocated: Spend lots and lots of time in studying a culture, learn the lan guage, hang out, do all the everyday things that everyone else does, become inconspicuous by sheer tenaciousness, and stay aware of what's really going on. Apart from the colonialist rhetoric, Malinowski's discussion of participant observation is as resonant today as it was more than 80 years ago.
By the time Malinowski went to the Trobriands, Notes and Queries on
Anthropology-the fieldwork manual produced by the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland-was in its fourth edition. The first edi tion came out in 1874 and the last edition (the sixth) was reprinted five times until 1971.
Thirty-five years later, that final edition of Notes and Queries is still must reading for anyone interested in learning about anthropological field methods. Once again, ignore the fragments of paternalistic colonialism-"a sporting
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rifle and a shotgun are . . . of great assistance in many districts where the natives may welcome extra meat in the shape of game killed by their visitor " (Royal Anthropological Institute 1951:29)-and Notes and Queries is full of useful, late-model advice about how to conduct a census, how to handle pho tographic negatives in the field, and what questions to ask about sexual orien tation, infanticide, food production, warfare, art. . . . The book is just a trea sure.
We make the most consistent use of participant observation in anthropol ogy, but the method has very, very deep roots in sociology. Beatrice Webb was doing participant observation-complete with note taking and informant interviewing-in the 1880s and she wrote trenchantly about the method in her 1926 memoir (Webb 1926). Just about then, the long tradition in sociology of urban ethnography-the "Chicago School "-began at the University of Chi cago under the direction of Robert Park and Ernest Burgess (see Park et al. 1925). One of Park's students was his son-in-law, Robert Redfield, the anthro pologist who pioneered community studies in Mexico.
Just back from lengthy fieldwork with Aborigine peoples in Australia, another young anthropologist, William Lloyd Warner, was also influenced by Park. Warner launched one of the most famous American community-study projects of all time, the Yankee City series (Warner and Hunt 1941; Warner 1963 ). (Yankee City was the pseudonym for Newburyport, Massachusetts.) In 1929, sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd published the first of many ethno graphies about Middletown. (Middletown was the pseudonym for Muncie, Indiana.)
Some of the classic ethnographies that came out of the early Chicago School include Harvey Zorbaugh's The Gold Coast and the Slum (1929) and Clifford Shaw's The lack-Roller (1930). In The lack-Roller, a 22 year old named Stanley talks about what it was like to grow up as a delinquent in early 20th-century Chicago. It still makes great reading.
Becker et al.'s Boys in White (1961)-about the student culture of medical school in the 1950s-should be required reading, even today, for anyone try ing to understand the culture of medicine in the United States. The ethnogra phy tradition in sociology continues in the pages of the Journal of Contempo rary Ethnography, which began in 1972 under the title Urban Life and Culture. (See Lofland [1983e] and Bulmer [1984e] for more on the history of the Chicago School of urban ethnography.)
Participant observation today is everywhere-in political science, manage ment, education, nursing, criminology, social psychology-and one of the ter rific results of all this is a growing body of literature about participant obser vation itself. There are highly focused studies, full of practical advice, and there are poignant discussions of the overall experience of fieldwork. For large
347 Participant Observation
doses of both, see Wolcott (1995), Agar (1996), and C. D. Smith and Korn blum (1996), Handwerker (2001), and Dewalt and Dewalt (2002). There's still plenty of mystery and romance in participant observation, but you don't have to go out unprepared.
Fieldwork can involve three very different roles: (1) complete participant, (2) participant observer, and (3) complete observer. The first role involves deception-becoming a member of a group without letting on that you 're there to do research. The third role involves following people around and recording their behavior with little if any interaction. This is part of direct observation, which we'll take up in the next chapter.
By far, most ethnographic research is based on the second role, that of the participant observer. Participant observers can be insiders who observe and record some aspects of life around them (in which case, they're observing participants); or they can be outsiders who participate in some aspects of life around them and record what they can (in which case, they're participating observers).
In 1965, I went to sea with a group of Greek sponge fishermen in the Medi terranean. I lived in close quarters with them, ate the same awful food as they did, and generally participated in their life-as an outsider. I didn't dive for sponges, but I spent most of my waking hours studying the behavior and the conversation of the men who did. The divers were curious about what I was writing in my notebooks, but they went about their business and just let me take notes, time their dives, and shoot movies (Bernard 1987). I was a partici pating observer.
Similarly, when I went to sea in 1972 and 1973 with oceanographic research vessels, I was part of the scientific crew, there to watch how oceano graphic scientists, technicians, and mariners interacted and how this interac tion affected the process of gathering oceanographic data. There, too, I was a participating observer (Bernard and Killworth 1973).
Circumstances can sometimes overtake the role of mere participating observer. In 1979, El Salvador was in civil war. Thousands fled to Honduras where they were sheltered in refugee camps near the border. Phillipe Bourgois went to one of those camps to initiate what he hoped would be his doctoral research in anthropology. Some refugees there offered to show him their home villages and Bourgois crossed with them, illegally, into El Salvador for what he thought would be a 48-hour visit. Instead, Bourgois was trapped, along with about a thousand peasants, for 2 weeks, as the Salvadoran military bombed,
348 Chapter 13
shelled, and strafed a 40-square-kilometer area in search of rebels (Bourgois 1990).
Mark Fleisher (1989) studied the culture of guards at a federal penitentiary in California, but as an observing participant, an insider. Researchers at the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons asked Fleisher to do an ethnographic study of job pressures on guards-called correctional officers, or COs in the jargon of the profession-in a maximum-security federal penitentiary. It costs a lot to train a CO, and there was an unacceptably high rate of them leaving the job after a year or two. Could Fleisher look into the problem?
Fleisher said he'd be glad to do the research and asked when he could start "walking the mainline" -that is, accompanying the COs on their rounds through the prison. He was told that he'd be given an office at the prison and that the guards would come to his office to be interviewed.
Fleisher said he was sorry, but he was an anthropologist, he was doing par ticipant observation, and he'd have to have the run of the prison. Sorry, they said back, only sworn correctional officers can walk the prison halls. So, swear me in, said Fleisher, and off he went to training camp for 6 weeks to become a sworn federal correctional officer. Then he began his yearlong study of the U.S. Penitentiary at Lompoc, California. In other words, he became an observ ing participant in the culture he was studying. Fleisher never hid what he was doing. When he went to USP-Lompoc, he told everyone that he was an anthro pologist doing a study of prison life.
Barbara Marriott (1991) studied how the wives of U.S. Navy male officers contributed to their husbands' careers. Marriott was herself the wife of a retired captain. She was able to bring the empathy of 30 years' full participa tion to her study. She, too, took the role of observing participant and, like Fleisher, she told her informants exactly what she was doing.
Holly Williams (1995) spent 14 years as a nurse, ministering to the needs of children who had cancer. When Williams did her doctoral dissertation, on how the parents of those young patients coped with the trauma, she started as a credible insider, as someone whom the parents could trust with their worst fears and their hopes against all hope. Williams was a complete participant who became an observing participant by telling the people whom she was studying exactly what she was up to and enlisting their help with the research.
Some fieldworkers start out as participating observers and find that they are drawn completely into their informants' lives. In 1975, Kenneth Good went to study the Yanomami in the Venezuelan Amazon. He planned on living with the Yanomami for 15 months, but he stayed on for nearly 13 years. "To my
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great surprise," says Good, "I had found among them a way of life that, while dangerous and harsh, was also filled with camaraderie, compassion, and a thousand daily lessons in communal harmonye" (Good 1991:ix). Good learned the language and became a nomadic hunter and gatherer. He was adopted into a lineage and given a wife. (Good and his wife, Yarima, tried living in the United States, but after a few years, Yarima returned to the Yanomami.)
Marlene Dobkin de Rios did fieldwork in Peru and married the son of a Peruvian folk healer, whose practice she studied (Dobkin de Rios 1981). And Jean Gearing (1995) is another anthropologist who married her closest infor mant on the island of St. Vincent.
Does going native mean loss of objectivity? Perhaps, but not necessarily. In the industrialized countries of the West-the United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, Germany, England, France, etc.-we expect immigrants to go native. We expect them to become fluent in the local language, to make sure that their children become fully acculturated, to participate in the economy and politics of the nation, and so on.
Some fully assimilated immigrants to those countries become anthropolo gists and no one questions whether their immigrant background produces a lack of objectivity. Since total objectivity is, by definition, a myth, I'd worry more about producing credible data and strong analysis and less about whether going native is good or bad.
How Much Time Does It Take?
Anthropological field research traditionally takes a year or more because it takes that long to get a feel for the full round of people's lives. It can take that long just to settle in, learn a new language, gain rapport, and be in a position to ask good questions and to get good answers.
A lot of participant observation studies, however, are done in a matter of weeks or a few months. Yu (1995) spent 4 months as a participant observer in a family-run Chinese restaurant, looking at differences in the conceptions that Chinese and non-Chinese employees had about things like good service, ade quate compensation, and the role of management.
At the extreme low end, it is possible to do useful participant observation in just a few days. Assuming that you've wasted as much time in laundromats as I did when I was a student, you could conduct a reasonable participant observation study of one such place in a week. You'd begin by bringing in a load of wash and paying careful attention to what's going on around you.
After two or three nights of observation, you'd be ready to tell other patrons that you were conducting research and that you'd appreciate their letting you
350 Chapter 13
interview them. The reason you could do this is because you already speak the native language and have already picked up the nuances of etiquette from previous experience. Participant observation would help you intellectualize what you already know.
ln general, though, participant observation is not for the impatient. Gerald Berreman studied life in Sirkanda, a Pahari-speaking village in north lndia. Berreman's interpreter-assistant, Sharma, was a Hindu Brahmin who neither ate meat nor drank alcohol. As a result, villagers did neither around Berreman or his assistant. Three months into the research, Sharma fell ill and Berreman hired Mohammed, a young Muslim schoolteacher to fill in.
When the villagers found out that Mohammed ate meat and drank alcohol, things broke wide open and Berreman found out that there were frequent inter caste meat and liquor parties. When villagers found out that the occasional drink of locally made liquor was served at Berreman's house "access to infor mation of many kinds increased proportionately" (Berreman 1962:10). Even then, it still took Berreman 6 months in Sirkanda before people felt comfort able performing animal sacrifices when he was around (ibid.:20).
And don't think that long term is only for foreign fieldwork. It took Daniel Wolf 3 years just to get into the Rebels, a brotherhood of outlaw bikers, and another couple of years riding with them before he had the data for his doc toral dissertation (Wolf 1991).
The amount of time you spend in the field can make a big difference in what you learn. Raoul Naroll ( 1962) found that anthropologists who stayed in the field for at least a year were more likely to report on sensitive issues like witchcraft, sexuality, political feuds, etc. Back in chapter 3, I mentioned David Price's study of water theft among farmers in Egypt's Fayoum Oasis. You might have wondered then how in the world he was able to do that study. Each farmer had a water allotment-a certain day each week and a certain amount of time during which water could flow to his fields. Price lived with these farmers for 8 months before they began telling him privately that they occa sionally diverted water to their own fields from those of others (1995: 106). Ethnographers who have done very long-term participant observation -that is, a series of studies over decades-find that they eventually get data about social change that is simply not possible to get in any other way (Kemper and Royce 2002).
My wife Carole and I spent May 2000 on Kalymnos, the Greek island where I did my doctoral fieldwork in 1964-1965. We've been visiting that island steadily for 40 years, but something qualitatively different happened in 2000. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but by the end of the month I real ized that people were talking to me about grandchildren. The ones who had grandchildren were chiding me-very good-naturedly, but chiding nonethe-
351 Participant Observation
less-for not having any grandchildren yet. The ones who didn't have grand children were in commiseration mode. They wanted someone with whom to share their annoyance that "Kids these days are in no hurry to make families" and that "All kids want today . . . especially girls . . . is to have careers.e"
This launched lengthy conversations about how "everything had changede" since we had been our children's ages and about how life in Greece was get ting to be more and more like Europe (which is what many Greeks call Ger many, France, and the rest of the fully industrialized nations of the European Union), and even like the United States. I suppose there were other ways I could have gotten people into give-and-take conversations about culture change, gender roles, globalization, modernization, and other big topics, but the grandchildren deficit was a terrific opener in 2000. And the whole conver sation would have been a nonstarter had I been 30 instead of 60
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