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Asian Man (The) - An International Journal
Year : 2013, Volume : 7, Issue : 1and2
First page : ( 45) Last page : ( 51)
Print ISSN : 0974-6366. Online ISSN : 0975-6884.
Article DOI : 10.5958/j.0975-6884.7.1X.007

Ethical Issues in Ethnographic Field Work

Ratha S.N.1

Former Professor, Sociology and Social Anthropology, Sambalpur University

1Dean, Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi National Institute of Research and Social Action, Gaganmahal Road, Hyderabad-500029, Andhra Pradesh. Email: satyanratha@gmail.com

Online published on 11 December, 2013.


Ever since Edward Tylor, the father of academic anthropology, named the discipline as “essentially a reformer's science” [1958, [1871] and thus laid down the ethical foundation of anthropological research; genuine and committed scientific anthropological fieldworkers have been developing a strong empathy for the people they study. Such concerns often find expression in their efforts for the welfare and development of the people they studied. The Involvement of Sol Tax for the development of Mesquakie (Fox) Indians, of Allen R. Holmberg for the Siriono, of PK Bhoumick for the Lodha, of Deborah Bird Rose for the Australian aboriginals and of Shelton H. Davis for the indigenous population of Brazil, is, but a few examples. On the other hand, anthropologists, whose commitment to science is overshadowed by self seeking interests, tend to misuse their anthropological role to spy against the people they study. Franz Boas, the father of academic anthropology in the USA goes on record for publicly chastising those who misused their scientist's role. In his own times, Boas did not find unstinted support for his commitment to the humane use of science. Even after more than half a century of Boas’ outburst, some continue to misuse their anthropological role. However, professional ethics demands that anthropological fieldworkers to be under obligation to help and certainly not to harm the people among whom they have lived and studied, and the people who have befriended and assisted them in their work.



Ethnography, Anthropological field work, Ethics, Social responsibilities.


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