The process of ethnographic research places the ethnographer in to a matrix o f significant relationships. When researchers embark on the process of inquiry, for example, they go beyond an array of previous relationship-those with former coauthors, research participants, editors, and others involved in completed projects. At the same time, entering the lives of those who are “under study” initiates new relationships. These relationships are affected by the ways in which researches reveal the “results of inquiry.”
I could not say better than Bronislaw Malinowski:
“[Ethnography has a] goal, of which an Ethnographer should never lose sight. This goal is, briefly, to grasp the native's point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world. We have to study man, and we must study what concerns him most intimately, that is, the hold life has on him. In each culture, the values are slightly different; people aspire after different aims, follow different impulses, yearn after a different form of happiness. In each culture, we find different institutions in which man pursues his life-interest, different customs by which he satisfies his aspirations, different codes of law and morality which reward his virtues or punish his defections. To study the institutions, customs, and codes or to study the behavior and mentality without the subjective desire of feeling by what these people live, of realizing the substance of their happiness—is, in my opinion, to miss the greatest reward which we can hope to obtain from the study of man.”
Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922) by Bronislaw Malinowski.
For more than a century anthropologists have struggled with understanding the various roles human culture plays in meeting the needs of individuals and the needs of society, and the relationship between these two. Bronislaw Malinowski (1884–1942) originated the school of social anthropology known as functionalism. Malinowski argued that culture functioned to meet the needs of individuals rather than society as a whole. He reasoned that when the needs of individuals, who comprise society, are met, then the needs of society are met. To Malinowski, the feelings of people and their motives were crucial knowledge to understand the way their society functioned: