School of Social Sciences

  • Anthropology header
  • Fieldwork game

    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.

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  • Exactly what happens, why it provokes such mirth, joy and downright gutsy laughter, you will discover when you play it

    Professor Jeremy McClancy

    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.