Bronislaw Malinowski

Introduction Edit

Bronislaw Malinowski is considered the father of ethnographic methodology by most field working anthropologist because of his ideas on participant observation. However in current literature he is also referenced by social scientists for his contributions to anthropological theory. I believe that he is referenced more today by social scientists for his contributions on anthropological theory. The reason that I am asking this question to begin with is because I am an anthropology undergrad in my senior year and I am just now hearing about Malinowski the theorist. Early in my introductory classes and everything up until now I have only heard Malinowski discussed in terms of “Argonauts of the Western Pacific”, and that only paints him as the man who single-handedly started true ethnography through participant observation.

[Contextualize this quote for your reader up front] “What is then this ethnographers magic…These, as said, consist mainly in cutting oneself off from the company of other white men, and remaining in as close contact with the natives as possible, which really can only be achieved by camping right in their villages.”(Malinowski, 1922) This was a quote taken from the introduction of Argonauts of the Western Pacific, which gives you some example of the revolutionary groundwork for ethnography that Malinowski was contributing.

Now I am in an actual theory class and from day one I am hearing about Malinowski in a very different way. He is constantly referenced in our readings for his Functionalism theories. For example in Barnard's book History and Theory in Anthropology, in the section Functionalism and Structural-Functionalism, Malinowski's Functionalism theory is layed out in detail and recieved heavy criticism from my classmates.(Barnard, 2000) [page number please] Right away I understand why he is being criticized '''Criticisms of Malinowski's work include observations that he does not adequately account for culture change''' due to his lack of being able to explain change or conflict using this theory but sometimes the criticism he is receiving sounds like outright hatred. [I think this may be overstating the case a teey bit] page numbers page numbers Is Malinowski remembered more today for his brilliance in ethnographic methodology or for his failures as a cultural theorist?

Materials/Methods Edit

In this experiment I wanted to know in recent literature is Malinowski referenced more for methodology by field working anthropologists or is he referenced more for theory by social scientists.To begin with google books was used to collect the data for my experiment. I went to the website homepage Using the search engine google books, I chose a sampling of works published over the last 16 years that cite Malinkowski. The purpose of this exervise was to find what number cite his work as a theorist and what works cite him as a specialists in methodology [or something] and clicked on advanced search. I then went down to the print window that was labeled exact phrase and typed in the phrase “Malinowski, Bronislaw”.After that I changed the time requirement to January of 1999 until present day. I also narrowed the search down to the English language only. A search with these parameters turned up 836 different books. So, to be clear this was 836 separate books published since January 1999, which had referenced Malinowski in some way. When I use the term “referenced”, I am meaning that he was cited in a book for either his methodology or his thoughts on theory. I decided that my sample size would be the first 100 books or first ten pages of the data base. I then went through and clicked on each one and read the parts where Malinowski was referenced and marked if it was for his field work in the Trobriand Islands or for his Functionalism theories. At the end I counted up my check marks in each of my two categories and used my data to answer my original question.

Results Edit


Figure 1.This graph simply shows that in the hundred books in my sample only 28 of them referenced Malinowski for methodology purposes and 78 of them referenced him for his works on theory.

Emily- I like the graphs and charts! Explains Malinowski's anthropological mindset! Kate here: agreed. A little discssion of functionalism would be good.

Discussion Edit

Yes, Bronislaw Malinowski is considered the father of ethnographical methodology but is he referenced more today in literature for his attempts at anthropological theory? I hypothesized before this experiment that he was referenced more today for theory than practice and my data supports this hypothesis. Only 28% of the books in my sample referenced Malinowski for methodology in field-work and 72% referenced him for his theories on society. After completing and analyzing the data collected there are now more questions that need to be answered to fully understand this topic. The more you study anthropological theory the more you understand that it is constantly evolving and all theorists ideas are criticized and modified. There is no one theory that everyone agrees is the correct and universal answer to why culture is and what exactly it accomplishes. So, when you understand that you begin to see that every theorist is heavily criticized and it does not take long for their ideas to be outdated and considered void, but also it is those original ideas that are used for the foundation for all new ideas in anthropological theory. For example we would not have Derrida's Post-structuralism if we did not first have Levi-Strauss's Structuralism.(Barnard, 2000) So, the reason that Malinowski is not referenced not near as much for methodology might possibly be because there really is no on-going debate over how field work should be carried out. It is simply accepted that Malinowski's participant observation is standard when doing field work. Where in theory nothing is set in stone and changes are still needed. For example in Moore and Sanders book Anthropology In Theory, D'Andrade has an article titled Moral Models in Anthropology, where he discusses how the aim in theory now is leaning towards morality and away from objectivity. Throughout the article he defends the need for objectivity and science to coincide with the new moral approach. Although he is not calling for Functionalism I am sure you would agree that Malinowski would be on D'Andrade's side in this argument. The point I am trying to make is that even though Functionalism may not be the perfect or currenttheory in anthropology does not mean it is not still important.(Moore and Sanders, 2006) Page numbers page numbers!

Sources Edit

O’Reilly, Karen 2005 Ethnographic Methods. London: Routledge.

Laurel, Brenda 2003 Design Research: Methods and Perspectives. Boston: MIT Press.

Wolcott, Harry F. 2008 Ethnography: A Way of Seeing. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Gingrich, Andre, and Richard Gabriel Fox 2002 Anthropology: by comparison. London: Routledge.

Ruby, Jay 2000 Picturing Culture: Explorations of Film & Anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, and Gisli Palsson 2001 Writing on Ice: the ethnographic notebooks of Jilhjalmur Stefansson. Hanover & London: UPNE.

Wilcox, Clifford 2004 Robert Redfield and the Development of American Anthropology. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Fernandez, James W., and Mary Taylor Huber 2001 Irony in action: anthropology, practice, and the moral imagination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lal, Brij V., and Kate Fortune 2000 The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Malmkjaer, Kirsten 2005 Linguistics and the language of translation. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

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