The Handbook of Food and Anthropology
Guardians of disciplinary purity still exist in many universities, but most scholars have long since abandoned ant pretence that anthropology is an academic subject grounded on notions of 'fieldwork' (usually in a foreign society) conducted by 'participant-observers' who worked alone to gather information from 'informants' who lived in 'foreign' (usually 'non-Western') 'cultures', preferably far from the anthropologist's home (where he or she wrote about the experience, often in the 'ethnographic present' -- as if the experience was locked in history, never to change).
Anthropologists today are best described as omnivorous ethnographers who do not hesitate to cooperate (and often co-author published works) with local people and scholars, while they borrow freely from other researchers who describe themselves as sociologists, economists, psychologists, geographers, historians and environmental scientists. Ethnography is a style of research that places the analyst in the midst of the social issues under investigation -- talking to people, living in their midst, digging into local archives, eating and drinking locally, interviewing leaders, attending meetings, listening to people complain/boast/worry, watching football matches, singing at weddings and sitting quietly at wakes. Ethnography is an all-consuming enterprise focused on the unremarkable, mundane, often boring lives of ordinary people: everything is important and nothing is irrelevent. Research among elites (in the business world, for instance) presents an additional, and usually far more challenging, aet pf restraints (see Caldwell, Chapter 20, this volume), but the fundamentals of ethnography remain essentially the same : focusing on what people, irrespective of income or education level, consider to be important.
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