Human Organization Research: Field Relations and Techniques

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

CHAPTER XXX
AN EXPERIMENT IN METHODOLOGY IN A WEST AFRICAN URBAN COMMUNITY*

William B. Schwab

ONE OF the most highly developed and complex cultures in tropical Africa today is found among the Yoruba people of southwest Nigeria.1 Extending northeast from Lagos, the major coastal port of Nigeria, is a densely populated area comprised of many large communities, characteristic of the Yoruba, whose total population numbers over 3,500,000 persons. The early history of many of these communities is obscure, although it appears that many of the contemporary communities had their inceptions in the 17th and 18th centuries. The largest of the 15 or more communities whose populations exceed 40,000 persons is Ibadan, with an estimated 400,000 population. The 1931 Nigeria census indicated that one-third of the Yoruba population lives in the nine largest Yoruba towns.

Since 1900, when the administration of the region was assumed by the British, the Yoruba have been in close association with Western culture. For some time, those familiar with Africa had felt that these large communities, with their extensive and systematic contact with Western culture, were important foci for cultural change. However, the size and complexity of organization of this culture have inhibited anthropological research in this area.

In this discussion I will analyze the field techniques I employed in an intensive anthropological survey of the social and economic organization of Oshogbo, a city of about 70,000. The basis of the methodological procedures employed was an attempted integration of survey techniques and intensive anthropological methods. Customary procedures -- such as interviewing selected informants, collecting case histories and genealogies, observing group and individual activities -- were augmented by the use of

____________________
*
Human Organization, Vol. 13, No. 1 ( 1954), pp. 13-19.
1
Some Yoruba are also found in eastern Dahomey and other areas of the west coast of Africa.

-408-

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