Anthropological Research examines how people navigate the complexity of making and maintaining ordinary lives in the context of the Socio-Economic, Political and Institutional arrangements that shape social worlds.
Ethnography – the description of social and cultural similarity and difference – commences with the everyday lives of Research Participants. The approach rests on the assumption that social relations are made not given and that these relations make sense when viewed in context. The value of such an approach is that it is grounded in the actual lives of individuals and groups of people. Our knowledge engages with ‘on the ground’ realities, rather than solely with texts or with what people say about what they do.
Fieldwork – engaging actively in lives of those with whom we work – is the main component of a Social Anthropologist's tool-kit.
It is applicable in every context, whether one studies the work of healers, conflict resolvers, actors or soldiers. Why is field work so important? The work of producing new insights into social life demands intensive study of social situations, practices and forms of knowledge, through close observation and participation in the ordinary – and sometimes extraordinary – activities that make up everyday life. Through Fieldwork, Anthropologists are able to Learn rather than make Assumptions about Culture and Human Behaviour - and are able to reveal the extraordinary in the familiar and the familiar in the extraordinary.
Another important Method is Comparison. By understanding how people in a wide range of societies make sense of their lives and worlds, we are able to bring insights gained from one situation to understand practices and problems observed in others.