Participant Observation and the Picturesque Savage

Ter Ellingson

in The Myth of the Noble Savage

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2001 | ISBN: 9780520222687
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520925922 | DOI:
Participant Observation and the Picturesque Savage

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As ethnographic interest in North American Indians shifted from the Northeast to peoples farther to the West in the first half of the nineteenth century, the greatest excitement arose from the discovery of the nomadic hunting peoples of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase territories. Innovations in ethnographic method came along with the new direction in ethnographic area. One such innovation was the practice of what anthropologists would later call participant observation, living for substantial periods with the people studied and taking part, as much as possible, in their way of life. Few had voluntarily undertaken it with the primary motivation of using it as a source of ethnographic information. Some saw the advantages of such an approach; and by the 1830s it was applied to American Indian ethnography by Charles Murray and George Catlin.

Keywords: nomadic hunting peoples; ethnographic information; American Indian ethnography; Charles Murray; George Catlin

Chapter.  9928 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural Anthropology

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