chapter  5
20 Pages

Participant Observation Examples

WithJudith Okely

Participation as shared labour brings trust and insights, sometimes across gender boundaries, as Sue Wright discovered. As confirmed in many examples, thanks to participant labour, the anthropologist found that information flowed easily. Wright was given massive detail about agricultural arrangements. Participation as a skilled worker is rarely achieved by the stranger anthropologist. That was our high point of being a participant observational anthropologist who had irredeem-ably moved beyond the pale for her previous Western friends. Participant observation may entail adjusting to very different rhythms and a different sense of time, as Malcolm McLeod articulated from fieldwork in Ghana: people never learn in fieldwork preparation to be patient. Mutual recognition through bodily participation is especially succinct when studying dance. Thus participation as political intervention could also be extreme engagement as opposed to distancing observation, as Zulaika discovered: Somebody from the village was kidnapped by Euskadi Ta Askatasuna.