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Reflexivity and Modern Works of Anthropology Essay

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Reflexivity and Modern Works of Anthropology


The role of reflexivity in Anthropology has changed a great deal over time. The effects of doing ethnography on the ethnographer was not considered an important mode of inquiry in the past. While inevitably, going to far distant lands and living with a culture so different from your own will at least cause the ethnographer to reflect on personal issues but most likely will cause profound changes in the way he or she will view the world. But in the past these changes were not important. What was necessary for the ethnographer to do in the past was to document a culture break it down structurally and quantify the observations made. The reflexive nature of his or her experiences were of little or no importance to the anthropological community. But over the years this has changed tremendously and Anthropology concerns itself more and more with the interactions between the ethnographer and his or her informants and the changes that occur in both due to the research being conducted. The scope of this paper will be to show this transition and also why it occurred.

The role of the Anthropologist in the past has been to document other cultures in order so the colonial authorities could better know how to rule them this is apparent in Bronislaw Malinowski's essay on the Trobriand islanders. He said, "The ethnographer has in the field, according to what has just been said, the duty before him of drawing up all the rules and regularities of tribal life; all that is permanent and fixed; of giving an anatomy of their culture, of depicting the constitution of their society. But these things, though crystallized and set, are nowhere formulated. There is no written or explicitly expressed code ...


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... not to say that a "scientific" documentation of the structure of the culture being studied should be forgotten about. But rather instead of being the main point of concern (as with Malinowski) it should be used to strengthen the arguments expressed by the author. Also as done with many other forms reflexivity should be able to be expressed in more abstract ways instead of just simply stating how you were effected and vice versa. But overall I think reflexivity is a good thing for Anthropological writing.

In conclusion, anthropology has come long way in the past few generations, at least in the sense of the writings produced by the students of this field. But perhaps this is due to the audience who reading the works and not the anthropologists doing the research. In any case reflexivity is definitely more openly expressed in the more modern works of Anthropology.


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