Malinowski And Lassiter's Impact On The Kiowa People

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Bronisław Malinowski studied the peoples of the Trobriand Islands from 1914 to 1918 and wrote “Argonauts of the Pacific” in 1922. In his ethnography, Malinowski describes his methods and findings in detail and shows a true understanding of the regions culture and cultural systems. Luke E. Lassiter spent a great deal of his life living with the Kiowa people in Oklahoma. In 1998, he wrote “The Power of Kiowa Song”, a collaborative ethnography, to show the effects that song has had on the Kiowa people as well as his own life. These works show several similarities and differences in their authors’ respective approaches. Malinowski helped to pave the way for anthropology as a study by introducing participant observation. Lassiter’s work is…show more content…
In his ethnography centered on the people of New Guinea, Malinowski introduced the idea of participatory observation. When he published “Argonauts of the Pacific” in 1922, his methods of interacting daily with his informants and actively participating with them were revolutionary and shook the anthropological world. Malinowski outlined the “proper conditions for ethnographic work,” by describing the way one could “cut oneself off from the company of other white men, and remain in as close contact with the natives as possible, which can only be achieved by camping right in their villages,” (1922:6). Participatory observation has become a major staple of anthropological ethnographic fieldwork. Lassiter’s methods took participatory observation to an expanded level. Not only was he heavily involved with the day-to-day lives of his subjects, but his informants were very influential in making decisions about the direction of the ethnographical research. This type of relationship can only occur in a collaborative ethnography. Lassiter described it as a “complex, problematic, and negotiated process—between consultants and ethnographer,” as well as “between ethnographer and reader,” (1998:58). While Lassiter wasn’t the first or only anthropologist to experiment with collaborative ethnographies, his work certainly proved that they can be very effective given the right…show more content…
Geertz, on the other hand, states that the ethnographer will never have the natives’ perspective and that any attempt to obtain it is futile (1983:56). Geertz goes on to say that we inherently have bias from our subject position and that no amount of research or participant observation can change that. Lassiter has a different approach to the natives’ perspective and the challenges that arise when trying to get to the core of these viewpoints. Instead of attempting to capture these perspectives, Lassiter allows his subjects to take an active role in the creation of the ethnography. With this method, Lassiter is able to incorporate crucial perspectives into the ethnography without his subject position interfering with the process. Obviously, when Lassiter only allows a few of the Kiowa to be involved in the ethnographical process, this can lead to a large percentage of the Kiowa population feeling underrepresented by the study and possibly angry that their voices are being ignored or pushed to the side. I argue that despite a few issues, a collaborative ethnography is the most effective way to convey the natives’ point of view. Lassiter’s approach to tackling the issue of the natives’ point of view is integrally different than Malinowski’s approach. This shows a vast differences in these anthropologists’

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