Finding and Mining the Talk: Negotiating Knowledge and Knowledge Transfer in the Field
This chapter reflects on how anthropologists collect, record and analyse field data in the process of creating academic knowledge. First, what are ethnographic techniques and practices of knowledge-transaction intended to elicit? Echoing Williams, the author would answer that they seek ‘some reflective social knowledge, including history’, that commands assent ((1985) 2006: 199)— what ethnographers might call baseline ethnographic data. Second, how is knowledge transacted through these ethnographic practices? The ethnographic focus in this chapter is self-narratives. Any technique of knowledge in a fieldwork situation has at least this prerequisite: the ethnographer’s placement within a local system of relations from which a baseline of shared understandings can be established. Like many other anthropologists, throughout the author's fieldwork, the author was in a permanent state of high alert, in thrall to everything the author observed and experienced. The Kewa people of the New Guinea Highlands are indefatigable verbal negotiators.