People Studying People: The Human Element in Fieldwork

People Studying People: The Human Element in Fieldwork

People Studying People: The Human Element in Fieldwork

People Studying People: The Human Element in Fieldwork

Synopsis

The authors of this book demonstrate that fieldwork is first and foremost a human pursuit. They draw upon published and unpublished accounts of fieldworkers' personal experiences to develop the thesis that an appreciation of fieldwork as a unique mode of inquiry depends upon an understanding of the role the human element plays in it. They analyze the processes involved when people study people firsthand, focusing upon the recurrent human problems that arise and must be solved. The human processes and problems, they argue, are common to all fieldwork, regardless of the disciplinary backgrounds or the specific interests of individual researchers.

Excerpt

The meaning of the word field work is changing. Once referring to laborious agricultural tasks performed by hand, it has come to designate the act of inquiring into the nature of phenomena by studying them at first hand in the environments in which they naturally exist or occur. It is this meaning that is most often implied or intended when fieldwork is used by those who make human beings the subjects of their investigations.

Long associated with the activities of the folklorist, anthropologist, linguist, and sociologist, fieldwork now attracts the psychologist, artist, ethnomusicologist, educator, historian, and student of dance and theater. Courses in fieldwork have proliferated in colleges and universities, and they are often an integral part of training programs for military and law enforcement personnel. in the minds of some, doing fieldwork has become synonymous with conducting research. It is a required ritual for many people seeking academic degrees or aspiring to positions in public service. It is even prerequisite to employment and advancement in selected professions.

This growing emphasis on fieldwork in the arts, humanities, and social sciences has been paralleled by the publication of an increasing number of books and articles on the subject. Most of these are addressed to prospective fieldworkers trained in a specific discipline rather than to seasoned researchers. Often structured as guides or manuals, they present sets of procedures . . .

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