20 February 2017

Book Report Entry #1: Field notes: A Guided Journal for Doing Anthropology

This blog will feature a series of posts on a new (2017) resource for first-time and long-standing ethnographers - a 'guided journal' for doing anthropology by Luis A. Vivanco. The incentive for reviewing certain features of this coil bound book are its uniqueness as a resource and its usefulness as a tool of reflection for those experienced ethnographers.

Much of this blog is dedicated to the application of anthropology and ethnography which is why it was with great pleasure to come across Vivianco's first chapter entitled "Fieldwork Skills are Life Skills."

Vivianco argues that competently conducting fieldwork, which he defines as "participant observation in a community to investigate its behaviors and beliefs" (2017, p.10). affords anthropologists the following list of life skills (explanations are paraphrased and at times expanded upon):
  1. Directed learning - from our participants/interlocutors and about matters they find important.
  2. Curiosity - a habitual approach to research and life in the field.
  3. Asking good questions - formulating questions that elicit meaningful answers (perhaps through trial and error, and learning more over time about what is meaningful and to whom)
  4. Accuracy and attention to detail - the focus on documentation for accurate data collection and interpretation.
  5. Listening - Vivianco references active listening as one being at the 'heart of fieldwork'. This simple act speaks to the many things, including the primacy of the participant in anthropological fieldwork, the construction of worldviews through personal experience, and more.
  6. Negotiation - while we're starting to sound like lawyers here - Vivianco is speaking to the balancing and building of relationships.
  7. Networking - fieldworkers identify, understand and use networks to cultivate relationships
  8. Adaptability - a requisite value for contemporary workplaces - speaks to the ambiguous grey zone that anthropologists typically work in and through  
  9. Communication - about one's project - a skill that most researchers require and few master.
  10. Recognizing, respecting, and working with difference - such an important skill and one which anthropologists rarely mention. Some might identify this as uniquely anthropological not just for their use of practical realism but in their approach to theory, data, and our attention to multivocality.
  11. Critical thinking - a skill for researchers when collecting, analyzing and evaluating their data.