how was Malinowski wrong and why it does not matter
"Imagine yourself suddenly set down surrounded by all your gear, alone on a tropical beach close to a native village, while the launch or dinghy which has brought you sails away out of sight… Imagine further that you are a beginner, without previous experience, with nothing to guide you and no one to help you. For the white man is temporarily absent, or else unable or unwilling to waste any of his time on you. This exactly describes my first initiation into field work on the south coast of New Guinea."
This quote also describes my first imergency into Malinowski’s ethnography, ‘’Argonauts of the western pacific.’’ It was uncharted waters, and I was left stranded on a beach of an unknown field with only my books to make for friends. This paper will give account of my thoughts as they appeared and evolved on several key issues through the book, concentrating on, what I deduced, to be of either paramount importance to the ‘’Malinowski experience’’ in the archipelagos of Melanesian New Guinea, or to be points of academic debate between me and the author and his work. Firstly, I will explore the position towards the ethnographer and his task in field work, giving account of Malinowski’s contribution to the field of social anthropology as well as providing some contrary opinion. Secondly, I will engage with the ‘’Primitive Economic Man’’ and Malinowski’s critic of him, leading to the depiction of the Kula and its ways, where I will look at how the author approached the system (and the structure) and how that approach had influenced his later observations and analysis. Finally I will look at the functionalists’ perspective on the local soci...
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...pt for chapter XXII., Malinowski provides the reader with little more than pure, observed data. This can be tiring from time to time and does leaves the ethnography somewhat lacking in deeper analysis, something I have grown to expect from functionalists in general.
One lest remark I had, to the work Malinowski put into his account of the life in the Trobriand Islands, would be the lack of himself in the book. He does give an overview of what the methods are and how an anthropologist should go about his business; however, he does not mention his position in the tribe he lived in for such a long time. The pictures of tribesmen and ‘’informants’’ he does mention, but very little is said about the role he played in their society, how he interacted, how did his presence change the events unfolding before his eyes.
malinowski, argonauts,1922, LSE, england
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