Anthropology proves to be satisfying and intellectually fulfilling to many in the field. However, there are also many challenges and bumps in the road along the way. Napolean A. Chagnon and Claire Sterk faced many of these challenges themselves.
During his fieldwork with the Yanomamo, Chagnon faced many challenges interacting with the natives. Chagnon could not practically communicate with the people until about six months after he arrived. He notes ? the hardest thing to live with was the incessant, passioned, and often aggressive demands they would make.? An example of this is the natives threatening with a shout such as; ?If you don?t take me with you on your next boat trip to Widokalyateri, I?ll chop a hole in your canoe!? While trying to collect genealogies, Chagnon found it very frustrating and commented ? I could not have deliberately picked a more difficult people to work with in this regard.? This was because he first tried to use the names they called each other, not knowing that the names they called each other were completely ambiguous and didn?t mean anything. He then later found out , after collecting all the genealogical information, that only the living members were accurate and the deceased listed were mostly fake.
He had to start all over. ( Chagnon 5) Sterk did a different type of study on prostitution and how it went on during a time when AIDS was a major problem. This type of fieldwork is ethnographic fieldwork. Sterk had to get established in rough neighborhoods, crack houses, and sidewalks of busy streets. She first and foremost had to locate her samples by asking local taxi-drivers, bartenders , and AIDS clinics. Developing a relationship and trust with women who had never had any trustworthy people in their lives was quite challenging as well.
Sterk was once followed home by one of the woman?s pimps and his friends, and was jumped. The woman admitted to Sterk over a year later that they wanted to teach her a lesson and she knew about it all along. Sterk describes ? At one time, I felt true hatred for a crack house owner and was unable to adhere to the rules of courteous interactions.? ( Sterk 10) In Gmelch?s work with ethnography, he took students to do fieldwork in Barbados. He says his students usually come out of the experience learning more about themselves than they did about the people they were supposed to be studying. The students learned more than they ever had about intimacy in relationships than they ever had in their culture. They compared it to the impersonality and detachment of their suburban lives.
One of the biggest adjustments the students had to make was adjusting to the slow-pace of village life. Many got used to being entertained just by socializing with the people and had no desire to leave if given a chance. Materialism diminished as the students began to feel embarrassed that they have so much. The people in the villages had so little and were seemingly so much happier than Americans. The students became minorities for their stay in the villages. One student says ? I have never been in a situation before where I was a minority purely due to the color of my skin, and treated differently because of it.? The students also noted that they became less eager to defend their own society, as they were becoming more aware of other cultures.
Through all the trials and challenges, I believe ethnography has helped not only the person engaging in the process, but everyone who has the opportunity see results.