Choosing a host (November 6-November 28, 1979)

Alma Gottlieb, Philip Graham

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Ethnography was once the almost exclusive domain of anthropology. In studies dating from the end of the nineteenth century, American scholars went and lived in a remote culture for a substantial period of time. The following selection falls within this tradition of cultural anthropology. Alma Gottlieb, then a doctoral student at the University of Virginia, set out to do fieldwork for fifteen months among the Beng people in a tropical rain forest in a West African village. She had not secured the necessary governmental permission to do the research before she flew halfway across the world. In addition, since this group had never been studied by Western scholars, she could not learn the Beng language in advance of her trip. As with most classical anthropological studies, she would have to rely on a translator or informant and try to learn to communicate once there. Although field workers often work alone, in this instance Gottlieb was accompanied by her husband, Philip Graham, a fiction writer then working on his first book of short stories. Graham was between teaching jobs, and thinking that as a fiction writer he could “write anywhere,” he “went along for the ride.” The resulting collaboration, Parallel Worlds: An Anthropologist and a Writer Encounter Africa, won the Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationJourneys through Ethnography
Subtitle of host publicationRealistic Accounts of Fieldwork
EditorsAnnette Lareau, Jeffrey Schultz
Number of pages36
ISBN (Electronic)9780429968044
ISBN (Print)9780813326382, 9780367316457
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences

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