Module I: Introduction

II. Method and Theory in Cultural Anthropology.


Having covered the main subject matter and unifying concepts of cultural anthropology, we must now turn to the more specific issues of how anthropologists record and represent cultural data and use them to address theoretical issues. Anthropology is a science and, as such, must deal with both the objective collection and recording of empirical data and the treatment of their findings in terms of an explanatory system.

Ethnography and ethnology are interrelated in a complex fashion. Deductive scientific method dictates that research must be organized to address a theoretical hypothesis that is derived from prior reasoning. This requirement creates an anthropological d ilemma, however, since an ethnographer must understand his/her observations in terms of their meanings within a particular cultural context, which may substantially depart from theoretical system chosen for interpretation. There are accordingly two ethno graphic styles:
  1. the deductive, or problem oriented, approach, which narrows investigation in terms of issues and principles identified as significant within anthropological theory
  2. the inductive approach, which identifies research problems and builds explanation from the field experience per se, and Inductive approaches have been more characteristic of the older schools of anthropology that developed between the start of the century and World War II. They have resulted in fairly general ethnographic descriptions. Problem oriented approaches are ty pical of current anthropological research and tend to focus on specialized subject matter, such as subsistence techniques, economic transactions, or religious rituals. Anthropologists must still take general ethnography and local meaning systems into acc ount, however, and must be open to modifying their research directions and theoretical assumptions if they prove inapplicable or problematic.


    A. Ethnographic Methods
    B. Objectivity in Ethnography
    C. Ethnology