Ethnographic Methods

Fieldwork in Anthropology

This was the comment page for two readings on ethnographic methods:

  • Lavenda & Schultz module 3, “On Ethnographic Methods” in Anthropology: What Does it Mean to be Human?
  • “Doing Fieldwork among the Yanomamö” by Napoleon Chagnon. Originally in Yanomamö: The Fierce People (4th edition, 1992) but revised and anthologized for many anthropology readers.

This material was for Intro-to-Anthropology 2016. For a 2021 update, see Cultivating Reflexivity which used the fifth edition of Lavenda and Schultz:

This was the first and only time I used the Napoleon Chagnon excerpt on “Doing Fieldwork among the Yanomamö.” I hoped to combine it with The Ax Fight in order to illustrate the fallacies of the Chagnon-Diamond-Pinker triangle of misinterpreting ethnographic methods. Alas, like many times before, it seemed the class got too caught up in Chagnon’s prose and flair. I’ve preserved some of that material below.

The Ax Fight

How does this film illustrate the power of the ethnographic method?
But what would you make of claim that this represents baseline human condition?

Be sure to locate your listening within the larger archaeological, ethnographic, and historical context!

Remember the lessons from Domestication before assuming that large villages with agriculture represent human nature or human baseline. I’ve posted about this as Yanomami Ax Fight: Science, Violence & the Facts.


Living Anthropologically means documenting history, interconnection, and power during a time of global transformation. We need to care for others as we attempt to build a world together. This blog is a personal project of Jason Antrosio, author of Fast, Easy, and In Cash: Artisan Hardship and Hope in the Global Economy. For updates, subscribe to the YouTube channel or follow on Twitter.

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