Encountering Morocco: Fieldwork and Cultural Understanding

Encountering Morocco: Fieldwork and Cultural Understanding

Encountering Morocco: Fieldwork and Cultural Understanding

Encountering Morocco: Fieldwork and Cultural Understanding

Synopsis

Encountering Morocco introduces readers to life in this North African country through vivid accounts of fieldwork as personal experience and intellectual journey. We meet the contributors at diverse stages of their careers-from the unmarried researcher arriving for her first stint in the field to the seasoned fieldworker returning with spouse and children. They offer frank descriptions of what it means to take up residence in a place where one is regarded as an outsider, learn the language and local customs, and struggle to develop rapport. Moving reflections on friendship, kinship, and belief within the cross-cultural encounter reveal why study of Moroccan society has played such a seminal role in the development of cultural anthropology.

Excerpt

This book introduces readers to Morocco by showing how anthropologists have come to understand it. Each essay takes us into a specific part of the country through the unique voice of the writer. Each delivers a very local story, a vignette of how a particular individual has done fieldwork in a specific context. And each stands as a personal meditation on cross-cultural understanding, the way that one person came to appreciate an alien social world. Together the chapters build a richly textured portrait of the Kingdom of Morocco—a key site in the development of the discipline of anthropology.

As the essays show, ethnographic knowledge unfolds over time through fieldwork. Fieldwork, as anthropologists generally understand it, is built on intimate and often unstructured encounters with various kinds of interlocutors in one or more local contexts. Many different methods may be employed during the fieldwork experience, but participant observation—living among the people being studied—is cultural anthropology’s primary research method. Anthropologists attempt to grasp other cultures by living in them for long periods of time. This type of research reveals the daily struggles that underpin larger social processes, and thus offers a vision of how everyday life is connected to larger social, cultural, and political dynamics. Anthropological fieldwork offers a perspective that is impossible to convey at the pace of a television news program or in the space of a guidebook. In an era of global transformation—with Twitter posts and YouTube videos, Occupy Wall Street, and the Arab . . .

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