LEARNING THROUGH DOING: THE IMPORTANCE OF FIELDWORK IN THE EDUCATION OF THE UNDERGRADUATE

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Abstract

There is little need to defend the centrality of fieldwork in the discipline of anthropology. Anthropological research conducted without “going into the field” (often for at least a year) is highly questionable. However, despite such an emphasis on fieldwork in anthropology, undergraduate students are still trained in the fashion of early “armchair anthropologists.” A true understanding of anthropology does not come from books, films, or lectures, the tools of the trade for most undergraduate anthropologists. It comes from being “in the field” (wherever that may be) and experiencing the joy, loneliness, culture shock, and language barriers that come along with it. Undergraduates should be allowed to experience as much as possible and make as many mistakes as possible. They are ready to accept the challenge of approaching another culture or community face to face and are ready to accept the vast amounts of knowledge that will come from this encounter.

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