Ethnographic fieldwork in the 21st Century
Fieldwork in the 21th Century: Safeguard your splendid isolation by means of Britney Spears!
Imagine yourself suddenly set down, surrounded by all your gear, alone on a tropical beach close to a native village. The launch or dinghy which has brought you there sails away out of sight. But before you can even take up your abode in a native village, your boat, while rounding the cliff of the next island, is held up by a speedboat full of pirates who start to sway their second-hand AK-47s towards you, once they learn that the dinghy contains little monetary value.
You look around for support, but most natives have left to defend their cultural heritage against a mining company before a visiting UNESCO commission. The remaining male population carries the AK-47s now pointing at you. Now you are glad you took the course in the anthropology of gender after all. You know from your training, and from both reliable and unreliable sources, that achieving ethnographic rapport with AK-47s and their carriers may pose a problem of ethnographic access.
Fortunately, you are culturally savvy and sufficiently trained to remain an unfazed anthropologist. You take out your laptop, log on to the wireless system (that a rich native has established to broadcast his lineage’s heritage to UNESCO) and turn up a YouTube clip of Britney Spears to full volume. After all, you can trust the 400 year old British Navy’s ethnographic sensibility when it tells you that “Perhaps nothing else – not guns, not harpoons – is quite as intimidating [to pirates] as the sound of Ms Spears singing ‘Ooh baby baby!’"
The pirates leave. Britney will have allowed you to conduct your research in peace.