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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Doing Fieldwork at Home: Some Personal Experiences among the Tumbuka of Northern Malawi
Author:Munthali, Alister
Periodical:African Anthropologist (ISSN 1024-0969)
Notes:biblio. refs.
Geographic terms:Malawi
Central Africa
anthropological research
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Anthropology and Archaeology
Anthropology, Folklore, Culture
Tumbuka (African people)
Field research
Cultural values
External link:https://www.ajol.info/index.php/aa/article/view/23107
Abstract:The bulk of anthropological theory grew out of Western anthropologists studying 'exotic' cultures. The end of colonialism, the reduction of funding for academic institutions, the increase in student enrolment and difficulties in accessing the field are some of the factors that contributed to the practice of anthropology at home in the West by Western anthropologists. However, most anthropologists from Third World countries have all along conducted their fieldwork in their own countries and among their own people. In this paper the author examines the problems of working at home in Northern Malawi, where being a Tumbuka, studying fellow Tumbuka, he was branded as a foolish person asking silly questions because he was expected to know the answers. His extended stay at home was interpreted differently by his own people and different identities were given to him: a member of the Criminal Investigations Department, a physician, a person who had been sacked from his place of work (and who hence had nowhere to go apart from home) and someone who was after 'their' women. Since his home village was only 15 kilometres from the research site, his relatives did not understand why he had to stay at the research site, claiming that it must be because he did not like his own village. Before he began fieldwork, the idea that while he would be trying to study the behaviour of his fellows, they would at the same time be trying to understand him, never occurred to him. The author concludes that though he was at home doing research, he was in essence not really at home because his long absence from home and the choice of his research topic had somehow de-familiarized him from what was supposed to be familiar. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum.