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Retrospective Reading of Fieldnotes. Living on Gypsy Camps

Author(s): Judith Okely

Journal: Behemoth : a Journal on Civilisation
ISSN 1866-2447

Volume: 04;
Issue: 01;
Start page: 18;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: fieldwork | participant observation | traveller camp | qualitative versus quantitative research methods | anecdotal writing

Decades after embarking on research among Gypsies, I examine that earlier context when therewas little published discussion of participant observation practice. Snatched advice and rare textssuggested an open-ended approach rather than limited hypothesis. The anthropologist’s first weeksof chronological narrative without selection of relevance, vindicate a holistic perspective. Detailsreveal themes prophetically to emerge as central. There are glimpses of individuals who were toplay continuing or passing, dramatic roles in the years to come. Fieldnotes both reveal and conceal.Entwined with experience and analysis, they are later transformed as texts. Fieldwork revealsembedded systems inaccessible through the quantifiable. The ‘merely anecdotal’, so maligned bypositivism, has the grounded potential, as explored here, for theoretical and ethnographic overviews,beyond place and time, in this case, residence on one Gypsy encampment during the first few weeks.
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