Anthropology what a vulnerable observer you are! You may well have to jump into the arms of the scientists if you are going to try to keep your grass hut at the academy! -- Ruth Behar
Debates on the role the reflexive plague the field of cultural anthropology as postmodern critics join the bandwagon attempting to claim authority in this dubiously recognized discipline. In the borderline realm between the sciences and humanities, cultural anthropology has tried to find a niche in which it can comfortably rest. For many, this has been in building a foundation of the methodical. If anthropology can classify, categorize, and synthesize, it can assert its legitamacy to the glares of academia. However, in the attempts to salvage its reputation, anthropologists have sacrificed the validity of research by neglecting our subjectivity. Critics have viewed the role of the reflexive as anthropological "naval gazing" leading to introspection and empathy which undermine accurate observation. However, I contend that it is important to include reflexivity in anthropological method. The anthropologist has to recognize not only the effect the surroundings have on him/her personally, but also the effect he/she has on the surroundings. This dialogue comprises data. If neglected, the text in its attempt to be comprehensive would be left incomplete.
The anthropologist Renato Rosaldo has been particularly criticized for his statement on reflexivity in Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis. In this work, he revisited his previous ethnography Grief and Headhunters Rage with a new perspective. Many years after his fieldwork, he realized the importance of personal experience in understanding the context. He states, "Dur...
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The anthropologist provides the framework for fieldwork. He/she is the very lenses in which the reader views the culture. By acknowledging his/her own subjectivity, the anthropologist recognizes the limited view he/she provides. This also adds texture to a text by filtering through his/her own background and personal experience. This personal insight is what gives understanding between individuals. By infusing this into the data, the anthropologist draws the reader into a realm where he/she can have the capacity to understand more deeply the ethnography. Beyond the personal background of the ethnographer, his/her actual presence in the environment effects the data immensely. The colliding cultures can reveal a lot about the culture at hand. Reflexivity leads the reader through a depiction of the ethnographer's journey rather than a detached set of sequences.
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