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"The innocent anthropologist" Notes from a mud hut - a book of Nigel Barley By Penguin Travel Library (1983), Penguin Books

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The matter of fieldwork on anthropology.
    1. A methodological choice.
    2. The decision despite everything.
    3. The balance.
  3. The difficulties on fieldwork.
    1. Material constraints and physical deficiency.
    2. Social cultural obstacles.
    3. The methodological sore points.
  4. Conclusion.

A respectable anthropologist, British Museum's curator, Nigel Barley is yet distinguishable by two aspects from his eminent colleagues. First he chose for his thesis to study "Old English material in published and manuscript form" (11), involving the disapproval of many ?purists' of the discipline. When he decided then to go on the fieldwork, he chose to make a report of his experiences in books in which the tone is far from the academic clumsiness of most monographs. "The Innocent Anthropologist" fluctuate between the travel story and the methodological manual : how to "do anthropology" (51), that's what he tackles in a funny tone, often with self-derision, and with many concrete anecdotes about the every day life of a anthropologist on fieldwork. About that, "the innocent anthropologist" is especially interesting because it's the narration of Nigel Barley's first fieldwork. His narration is chronological, about the reason why and the preparations for his departure (chap 1 and 2), about his difficulties of beginning as fieldworker among the Dowayos in North Cameroon (chap 3 to 5),a bout progress, idle periods and other problems (chap 6 to 12), and at last about the shock of return (chap 13).

[...] - the roads were in a catastrophic state : The road gradually became worse and worse until it was just a series of shattered boulders and deep craters. I had clearly wandered from the track. but this was indeed the road. the road was not too bad, though there were two rivers I did not much like the look of , indeed they proved rather a nuisance. My car would make a habit of developing faults half-way across - the rail network wasn't better : the journey, I'd been assured, would last three hours; in fact it took seventeen hours. [...]


[...] How choose a subject of research ? What benefit derives from fieldwork ? It's those points which will interest us now. A methodological choice For 90 years, since the works of Malinowski, the fieldwork has stood out as indissociable of anthropological research. However a new generation of anthropologists raise doubts about this established fact. ( Malinowski, the inventor of fieldwork Malinowski, the precursor : first issued his impassioned cry to the ethnographer to get up off the mission veranda and go out into the villages (28). [...]


[...] Gradually, I built up a library of taped conversations, my notes on them, and the interpretations I has received subsequently. I was able to pick one at random and go through it, word by word, with my assistant, making him justify translations he had given me, elaborate on certain terms or beliefs and explain the difference between close synonyms. Once this became a standard procedure, our level of linguistic competence rose enormously. He became much more careful ; I began to learn much faster. [...]

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