Реферат: What Importance May The Sex Of The

Anthropologist Have On The Ethnographic Process? Essay, Research Paper

There are many factors which can influence the ethnographic

process for an anthropologist, and a very important one is

his/her sex. This essay will examine the different attitudes

towards sex, the problems that face all ethnographers when they

embark on fieldwork in a different environment to their own, as

well as the? problems and benefits which can arise due to the sex

of an anthropologist. In order to produce a written work about a certain culture or

society (an ethnography, anthropologists must embark on what is

known as the ethnographic process". This term refers

to all of the various activities and research methods which the

anthropologist must undertake if he/she wants to obtain a

profound and objective understanding of the culture being

studied. This process can involve the method of participant

observation, which is the long-term, extreme interaction with a

community and involves the inclusion of the anthropologist in the

day-to-day life of the society, including the attendance of the

anthropologist at rituals, ceremonies etc… The ethnographic

process also involves the anthropologist expressing the feelings

that he/she has experienced during the course of the fieldwork,

and the relations which they might have built with certain

members of the community so that the readers of the ethnography

can have a deeper understanding of the culture being


However, the above mentioned factors can easily be affected by

the sex of the anthropologist. The word sex refers to the

biological category into which a person is born; either male or

female" but although the term refers only to the physical

appearance of a person, the extremely diverse biological and

psychological differences between the two sexes have led to there

being a male-female a division and a «gender

hierarchy» existing in virtually all societies. This can

bring about both benefits and problems to the anthropologist, and

this is what will be examined in this essay. When conducting fieldwork in a different environment, there

are many problems which all anthropologists encounter, and learn

to overcome,? despite their sex. The first problem, which often

occurs as soon as the anthropologist arrives in their area of

study, is culture shock. The anthropologist must learn to adapt

him/herself to such basic things as sleeping, bathing, eating,

and in most cases, adjusting to the loneliness and lack of

privacy which he/she is certain to encounter. Some

anthropologists learn that they were quite naive in their ideas

about some things, and try to learn to be a lot more culturally

and emotionally versatile. Also, some anthropologists find that

they are not very welcome into the community, and in some cases,

the members of society form very low opinions about the

anthropologist almost immediately.? Anthropologists also have to

try and gain the respect and co-operation of the community by

behaving in the appropriate manner and learning how to

communicate with them without making them feel uncomfortable or

threatened. However, as many views and expectations about the differences

between the two sexes often form the foundation of standards

around which communities and societies organise their social

lives, the sex of the anthropologists can make a significant

difference in the collection of ethnographic data. Although most

societies in the West regard women and men to be relatively

equal, many societies, for example the Yanomano of South America,

have extremely male-dominated societies within which men are

given greater respect, have a higher social status and enjoy many

more privileges than women. If a female anthropologist was to

enter such a society, in addition to all the «usual»

problems she would encounter, the community would be very likely

to regard her as inferior, and would perhaps also be very shocked

to see a woman without a dominating male partner and behaving so

independently.? Situations such as these are likely to cause

great confusion in these cultures, as the community would have

mixed feelings of curiosity, disbelief, and, especially among

the men, some might feel threatened by her strong position. This

may cause the community to be less willing to allow her to

participate in activities, interview some people etc., and the

anthropologist would probably have to work very hard to become

more accepted. Another problem is that some cultures, most notably among

Muslims, is that relationships between female ethnographers and

male informants are regarded as being taboo and socially

unacceptable. This can cause the female anthropologist«s

research methods and participant observation to be very limited

and can greatly affect the conclusions which she will make about

the community.

Nevertheless, there are some advantages that come with being a

female anthropologist. In the past, most ethnographers were males

who had very little opportunity to see the womens» side in

society as men are more likely to be excluded from women«s

rituals, ceremonies etc. Now that there are many more women

anthropologists, ethnographies can concentrate more on all the

members of the community as it is usually found that women are

more tolerated in the „world of men“, allowing

participant observation with both the sexes. There are many

confused ideas concerning the reasons why women are more accepted

than men in some societies, but one of the main arguments is that

women are seen to pose less of a threat due to their lower status

in these societies. In this essay, some different mentalities and attitudes

towards the two sexes have been explored, and the different

problems, as well as the advantages, which female anthropologists

can encounter when conducting fieldwork have been expressed.

There is no real answer to the question of which of the two sexes

would be able to gain better experiences and learn more from

studying a culture or society, as each different sex has both its

advantages and disadvantages regarding the ethnographic process,

and many other factors, such as the society being studied, also

come into play when these projects are carried out. What can be

concluded, however, is that the rising number of female

anthropologists has helped the field of social anthropology

develop and expand as more points of view and experiences are now

being expressed from their side instead of the past

male-dominated view. Through the description of different

cultures by women, readers of ethnographies are now able to form

opinions through more detailed and varied study, benefiting both

the field of social anthropology and general society.

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