Anthropological know how ‐ Fieldwork among Shamans and questions of research methodology

Tuesday April 29th 2014 and Wednesday April 30th 2014
Two open lectures by Prof. Tatiana Bulgakova, Herzen State Pedagogical University in St. Petersburg


One thought on “Anthropological know how ‐ Fieldwork among Shamans and questions of research methodology

  1. fstammle

    These lectures were extremely interesting, for me for two particular reasons.
    1) it showed how important it is to have frequent returns to the same field, and – if possible – continuous involvement and contacts with friends there. This allows us to follow up on developments on the field site and work also towards making your own research meaningful for the people there.
    There is an excellent book about the importance of returns to the field, with a wonderful chapter by Piers Vitebsky describing his friendship with the people in the field, published in 2011 here:
    2) Bulgakova gave some alternative interpretations of the material that came out of early fieldwork done by her jointly with Juha Pentikainen, the famous Finnish religious studies scholar. Bulgakova had been together with him to the field, but then followed this up with many more frequent returns and deeper involvement in the life of the Nanai people. This was a prime example to invite us thinking about distinguishing more clearly between a) what we see happening in the field, b) how do our fieldwork partners who live there interpret what’s happening, and c) how do we as anthropologists interpret that. In all three of these points, Bulgakova’s view was different from Pentikainen’s. This reminds us once again that anthropology is not about presenting facts and “truth”. Nobody will ever know what “really” happened in the field, but we will find out from writings and lectures what the anthropologists thought happened there.
    3) Bulgakova’s lectures made me more humble and think about “who am I to publish at such a young age stuff basing on my fieldwork, some of which did not even last a year? Does that then mean that no anthropologist should publish anything before he/she opens for him/herself the final insights after decades of field returns? I myself think that just like anybody, anthropologists have the right to express their opinions, even in what might seem immature publications. Then later when we know better, we can acknowledge that our take on this changed and our insights deepened.

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