Social and cultural anthropology is the comparative study of culture and human societies. Anthropologists seek an understanding of human kind in all its diversity. This understanding is reached through the study of societies and cultures and the exploration of the general principlesof social andcultural life. Social and cultural anthropology places special emphasis on comparative perspectives that challenge cultural assumptions.
Many anthropologists explore problems and issues associated with the complexity of modern societies in local, regional and global contexts. Participant observation is one type of data collection method, its aim is to gain a close and intimate familiarity with a given group of individuals and their habits through an intensive involvement with people in their cultural environment, usually over an extended period of time.
The term ethnography has come to be equated with virtually any qualitative research project where the intent is to provide a detailed, in-depth description of everyday life and practice. The relationship between P. O. and the ethnography is that, in order to write the ethnography, we get information using P. O. The importance of fieldwork is that the data the anthropologist gathers is more valuable because is first hand information. However, the armchair anthropology is based on books and reaserch papers written by anthropologists that have done prior studies.
There are some advantages and disadvantages of fieldwork, which i will mention: The main advantage would be that the anthropologist can stablish a good relationship with the people being observered, that leads to a more honest information, and you may tell when people are lying or hiding something. Another important advatage to point out is that you learn how to formulate right questions. The most important disadvantage is that the person doing the research may be bias to the person who is being interviwed.
Also, the fact that there is a lack of privacy while doing the work, which might affect the anthropologist point of view. Depending on the period of time in which the ethnography is written, the data included may vary. Due to this fact, the anthropologist as well as the person being observed are affected by the events going on, and by the knowledge they have at this point. As an example, an ethnography published before Darwin, might had been taking into account Lamarck`s theory. On the other side, a study done after Darwin, would consider Darwin`s theory.