Human Organization Research: Field Relations and Techniques

By Richard N. Adams; Jack J. Preiss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
THE COLLECTION AND ORGANIZATION OF FIELD MATERIALS: A RESEARCH REPORT*1

Kurt H. Wolff

THERE appear to be relatively few sociological and anthropological monographs that throw light on the process by which the student's experience in the field is transformed into his published statement.2 And yet, since it is, after all, a man -- and not some impersonal scientific apparatus -- who makes the study and since the student's subject matter, too, is man, however complexly abstracted he may be, it would seem exceed

____________________
*
A slightly altered version of the paper by the same title that appeared in the Ohio Journal of Science, Vol. 52, No. 2 ( March, 1952), pp. 49-61. Reprinted with the permission of the editor of that journal.
1
Slight revision of Wolff (1952a), a paper read at the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Ohio Valley Sociological Society, Bloomington, Ind. April 28,1951.
2
Most of those I know -- all of them anthropological -- are referred to in Herskovits ( 1948), chap. 6, "The Ethnographer's Laboratory," in which the first pages (81-83) of section 2 give an excellent example of the transformation of field experience into generalized statement. Among the references contained in that chapter, the most important ones are certain passages from M. J. and F. S. Herskovits ( 1934); Malinowski ( 1922) the relevant section of which is reprinted under the title "How an Anthropologist Works" in Haring ( 1949); Evans-Pritchard ( 1940); and Mead ( 1940). Cf. also Bateson ( 1932, esp. pp. 441-44, and 1936 [ 2nd ed., 1958], esp. chaps. i, viii, xvi). See also some pertinent passages in Wolff ( 1944, 1951), Mead ( 1949, chap. ii), and Bennett ( 1959). Radin ( 1957, pp. xxi-xii, "Methods of Approach") on the one hand, and Mead and Métraux ( 1953), on the other, contain statements and considerations that, when attention is specifically focused on this problem, might tease questions and answers relevant to it. The related problem of the bearing of the student's expectations, etc., on his eventual report leads, if pursued systematically, into the whole problem area of the sociology of knowledge. As a case in point cf. Redfield's and Lewis' studies of Tepoztán -- Redfield ( 1930; 1953, pp. 155-57; 1955, pp. 133-36); Lewis ( 1951, pp. 428-48). For another case see Bennett ( 1946). For an approach to the sociology of knowledge, which, in Bennett's words (32), includes "the observer in the frame of reference" -- that is, which applies some of the lessons of the "Loma" study to this field -- cf. Wolff ( 1953). And for an attempt at applying them to the whole problem of interpretation, exemplified by the interpretations of two texts ( Spitzer, 1949, and Simmel, 1950) and a cartoon ( Steinberg, 1947), cf. Wolff ( 1951).

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