INDIVIDUAL PERSPECTIVE IN FIELD WORK: AN EXPERIMENTAL TRAINING COURSE*
John W. Bennett
THE FOLLOWING discussion deals with a graduate course in field methodology with which I have experimented over the past several years. In essence, the course consists of a series of exercises that bring out differences among the student participants in the ways they perceive and interpret observed data, and it discusses the implications of these differences for theoretical and intellectual aspects of cultural anthropology. The exercises or demonstrations are given as training for the final stage of the course, during which the students are required to do interviewing in the field. I will be concerned mainly with the demonstration phase of the course.
My rationale for a course of this kind is as follows:
First, I assume that field work, when it is carried on for the purpose of acquiring a broad and deep picture of a human situation, involves far more than a set of techniques for the collection of data. Field work is the fundamental and distinctive feature of ethnology -- or of any inquiry that seeks detailed knowledge of human circumstance. By studying a living society in its natural setting over a period of time, the ethnologist acquires a large body of data, which, when analyzed and coordinated, becomes a portrait of a complex human milieu. This rich and complex body of data must be subjected to an eclectic interpretive analysis, because sweeping, single-factor theories cannot see the trees for the woods, while intensive, small-scale hypotheses see only the trees, and not all of them.1 The small-scale hypotheses are useful for the working-up of selected portions of the data, often published as separate articles. But the final product is the general monograph, which covers as much ground as the writer is able to cover with the data and facilities available. An____________________