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The fieldwork game is an exciting, challenging exercise. Above all, students say it’s a lot of fun. The objective is to enable students gain some idea of the mechanics of fieldwork, and why it can be so difficult.
The first task is for a pair of anthropologist overseers to train students very rapidly how to act in a certain society. The group is initially divided into two; each sub-group is trained to be good Xs or Ys. Once they’re X-ing or Y-ing well (about five mins in total), the fun can begin. Every 5 minutes a pair of Xs act as anthropologists and go to do fieldwork among the Ys. They have five minutes of participant-observation to work out the rules of Y-life as best they can. At the same time, a pair of Ys is fieldworking among the X. Every five minutes a new pair from each sub-group goes to visit the other sub-group.
When everyone has been an anthropologist, all the members within each sub-group huddle to work out what are the complete rules of life of the other sub-group. Five minutes later, everyone is brought back together. The Xs publicly state the rules of Y life, then the Ys state the X rules. Finally, the members of staff overseeing the game draw out general points of fieldwork, its strengths and weaknesses, by signalling how the five-minute anthropologists got some things right, where they went astray, and what all that tells us.
Exactly what happens, why it provokes such mirth, joy and downright gutsy laughter, you will discover when you play it Professor Jeremy McClancy
Exactly what happens, why it provokes such mirth, joy and downright gutsy laughter, you will discover when you play it
The version we play is a much-simplified version of the full game, BaFa , created by R. Garry Shirts. Our thanks to Garry for supplying Brookes Anthropology with a copy.