Anthropology Fieldwork Essay
Following (1926), a short but path-breaking book which described how ‘law and order’ was maintained in the Trobriands through various sanctions, including the threat of sorcery.
Malinowski’s ethnographic persona – curious, patient, empathetic yet ironic – was given a tentative outing in his first ethnographic report, , ‘the writer is his own chronicler,’ he reminds us, and scolds those whose works offer ‘wholesale generalizations’ without informing the reader ‘by what actual experiences the writers have reached their conclusion’.
The author’s “Introduction” (which has been dubbed the Book of Genesis of the fieldworker’s Bible) contains twenty-five of the most influential pages in the history of social anthropology.
Malinowski’s intention was to raise ethnographic fieldwork to a professional art.
Although Freudians did not take kindly to this interpretation, Malinowski triggered a debate which continues to this day.
(1929) is a long and detailed ethnography of Trobriand family life: courtship, marriage, divorce and death, pregnancy and childbirth. Needless to say, it was a pioneering study of human sexuality and of the social and cultural factors which shape it.