Participant Observation Essay

Participant Observation Essay

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® ;Used by Malinowski in his study of the Trobrianders.
® ;Used by Chagnon with the Yanomamo.
One of the most popular and widely used research methods is Participant Observation. Participant observation is the involvement of the anthropologist in the activities of the people in that society, so that instead of just observing the people, the anthropologist is able to get a more ëhands-oní ;experience of how these people live their lives.
The main advantages of participant observation are that it allows the anthropologists to obtain a deeper and more experienced insight on the activities that the individuals of a society perform and the ways in which they think and that it also allows the anthropologists to gain a good overview of how and why a society functions.
The disadvantages of participant observation are that it is sometimes unwelcome by the society being studied, as they often feel disturbed and that the anthropologist is invading their privacy. It is also often difficult for the ethnographer to go native, and, even when he does, problems arise as he may begin to lose objectivity after becoming too much a part of that society.

The problems that can arise due to PO include:
· ;Gender - certain genders are more welcome than others into different societies. Women can be seen as inferior/ be threatening to men/ canít integrate w/ men.
· ;Ethnicity- ethnographers could be kept at a distance because of their ethnicity, or may find it hard to always be culturally relative.
· ;Culture shock- on the part of the ethnographer
· ;Expense- on the part of the ethnographer
· ;Interpretation- some things can be interpreted very differently from culture to culture.

Ethical problems which can arise due to PO:
They can arise on both the part of the ethnographer and the people which the ethnographer is studying.

Problems of ethnographer:
Associated with the activities performed by the society being studied. For example, whereas female genital mutilation is commonly practised in some areas of the world, an ethnographer studying people in area where this is practised who comes from a culture and background where this is considered unacceptable and inhumane may face serious moral problems. Should the ethnographer try and intervene and stop this practice, should he try and educate the people of this society about the wrongs of this activity or should he ignore his own morals and values in the name of cultural relativism?

Problems of society:
The people being studied often feel disturbed, distracted or that their privacy is being invaded when they are being studied by a stranger, who can often seem to be uninvitedly studying their every move.† The people could argue that it is unfair for ethnographers to freely enter into a society and begin to study the people ;his ways of thinking and living may often seem very different and unwelcome to certain societies. It is often very difficult for ethnographers to overcome these problems as it is not easy to find a compromise between that which he wants to do and that which he must do in order to allow the people being studied feel most at ease.

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