chapter  4
26 Pages

THE IMPORTANCE OF FIELDWORK: ANTHROPOLOGY AND EDUCATION IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA Wayne Fife

Open up any introductory textbook in socio-cultural anthropology and you

will find a lecture on the importance of holism. The author will typically

explain that anthropologists are usually more interested in gaining an un-

derstanding of the total context of human lives than they are in delineating

"variables" or "factors" from those lives in order to arrive at a generaliza-

tion or "law" regarding human behavior. This is particularly true of ethno-

graphic researchers, who traditionally make use of the participant-observa-

tion method in their work. Two key terms for an ethnographer are context

and pattern. The goal is to formulate a pattern of analysis that makes reasonable sense of human actions within the context of a given place and time.1

This task of holism may seem simple enough when a student is reading an