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04. Objective Methods

I have devoted almost all of Chapter I to the problem of difficulties met with by the investigator and this also permitted me to indicate by the way the negative sides of the methods discussed, and what I admit as recommendable conditions, namely, (1) as far as possible to avoid approaching an alien complex from the point of view of the ethnical unit to which the investigator belongs; (2) to have sufficient general theoretical preparation; (3) to have sufficient time for observation and technical facilities, including language; (4) to be free of the influence of theories which do not result from the investigation and which bear the original fallacy of being based upon unchecked hypotheses and postulates; (5) to record if possible all facts; (6) to be an ethnographer [26]. Although these conditions may at first appear obvious it is not so in fact, in support of which there may be brought forth a great number of facts from the history of ethnography. However, the ethnographer is not in a hopeless position for he finds great help for carrying out his difficult task in the perfection of methods of investigation. Here I have in view chiefly those methods which as far as possible eliminate the investigator's personal feelings and opinions. They are technical methods and theoretical approaches to the functional phenomena in ethnical units which help in gathering the facts and analysing them. These methods we may call «objective» ones [27].

Naturally in the present chapter I cannot give a complete treatment of ethnographical methodology, so I shall now confine myself to giving a general idea of what I understand as «objective methods».

To this class of technical methods I will refer the study of associations, reactions, errors in using words and names, also the analysis and record of dreams; and other methods well known from the experience of modern psychology. The simplest methods used for the study of psychology and mentality of the apes can also be used [28]. Very good material may be obtained from folklore, as well as every day simple expressions and conversations, and particularly the order in which they occur. The real difficulties met with here are interpretations on the part of the investigator. Yet, the grammar and selection of the vocabulary are direct documents for a correct approach to the psycho-mental complex [29]. The semantic study of the language, change of meaning in time, and adaptation of the alien elements is an inexhaustible source of evidence. The same is true in reference to local constructions.

The physical objects on which one may see the psychomental activity, as for instance various implements, instruments and devices, methods of breeding of domesticated animals and man, the objects used in the medical and shamanistic performances are also good documents when properly interpreted. The same may be said with reference to the actions of individuals and groups of individuals in their social manifestations when they may be described in terms of behaviour. No doubt, the chief source for a description of the psychomental complex and its understanding are the opinions of the individuals and groups investigated when they are textually recorded, and not the interpretations of these opinions [30].

Another important source of objective data concerning psycho-mental complex, ought to be mentioned, namely, nervous, psychic and mental disturbances. The study into the behaviour of the persons affected by these disturbances, also the attitude towards them of the persons who are not affected sometimes may give a right key for the understanding of the «normal» psychomental complex [31]. I will not now speak of the instrumental methods of investigation for under the conditions of field-work, especially for ethnographers, these are out of the question. Yet, the investigation into the physiological conditions of the units, which theoretically must have a definite influence on the ethnical psycho-mental complex, may be quite convincing as an objective method, but since this investigation requires special laboratory conditions it is also out of the question. However, some observations of this kind are possible and they may be used for the purpose of an analytical description of the psychomental complex.

I have here enumerated some of the objective methods of investigation which have been used for gathering and describing the psychomental complex as it had been observed amongst the groups here treated. However, the question as to how far these methods may be used and practically applied depends on the investigator and the mode of life of the groups investigated. In fact, the Northern Tungus who live chiefly on hunting have no settlements. They gather in large numbers very rarely, only on the great occasions of weddings and annual markets, and rarely in small groups for shamanizing. Furthermore, since the number of population in these groups is not large the mass material generally is very limited. For an exhaustive investigation of a group it would take several months before one could start a special investigation into the psychomental complex. Yet, when a group is investigated this cannot suffice, for the investigator must have some comparative material without which the conclusions and even the description cannot be carried out. This involves the investigator in other similar inquiries which again take a long time. Practically one needs several years of assiduous investigation before being able to make an approximate idea of the complex. However, such a diligent work leaves little time for analysing the material and preparing it for publication. In fact, we have many instances of investigators who become so specialized in one of the directions of these investigations that they lose their ability of having a general outlook on the phenomena. Yet, some other investigators are so overloaded on the material gathered that they become unable to analyse and publish it [32]. However, it is not enough to collect and analyse, even with the help of the best methods, the material concerning psychomental complex for these phenomena cannot at times be fully understood from the point of view of their internal mechanism, their causes of changes being beyond this complex. The psychomental complex becomes much clearer when it is investigated in connection with the concrete ethnical units in which it is found and in connection with other ethnographical phenomena. It is common that the causes of changes in the psychomental complex have only secondary origin. Therefore, in this setting of the problem one must approach the psychomental complex in its functioning within the ethnical units and thus we must stop on the problem of ethnical unit in general as formulated by me in the theory of ethnos. As a matter of fact, I might now confine myself to a reference to my previous publications; dealing with the theory of ethnos, but I consider it desirable to make an addition in the present work for some of publications to which I might refer may not be available, while others are not sufficient for an introduction to the psychomental complex.

26. Mentioning of «ethnographer» may produce a surprise, so that I shall at once explain what I understand as «ethnographer.» It is a complex. Not every one who is interested in cultural adaptation of ethnical units is an ethnographer and not every one may become an observer-ethnographer. Besides physical and physio-psychological and mental fitness for this work, as for instance, high power of special and general perception, also high power of self-analysis and self-control, the ethnographer must have special inclination-interest and ability of general and special observation. Yet the ethnographer must have a necessary knowledge of ethnographic phenomena as they are observed in different ethnical units and groups. Indeed, this knowledge may be learnt, but there will remain still more which cannot be learnt and which must be inborn in the ethnographer. However, among layman it is believed that every one may become an ethnographer after reading ethnographical works, although even for driving public ears one needs special examination of fitness. It is not surprising that there are so few ethnographers.

27. Indeed, my use of the ambiguous term «objective» may raise a needless discussion as to the existence of «objectivity» in general. Therefore I deem it useful to point out that such a «philosophical» discussion nowadays would be quite superfluous for no abstraction of the thinking process is possible, the process being physically bound with the cognizing individual and all his cognition is a mere reaction on the milieu. More than this, the individual is not only bound by his physio-psychological complex but also by the populations in which he has been born, has been living, and mentally growing. He cannot be abstracted from his milieus, as his thinking process cannot be abstracted from his physio-psychological complex. When I oppose «objective» to «subjective» I have in view only a relative elimination of rude feelings and now quite evident theoretical aberrations which are still prevailing in the young sciences.

28. Cf. investigations into the mentality and psychology carried out e.g. by R. M. Yerkes, W. Koehler and N. Kohts, on gorilla and chimpanzee.

29. This method has already been used for a long time. However, it ought to be pointed out that in inexperienced hands and with the presumptions of theories discussed above, this material may become absolutely misleading. In fact, so many sweeping conclusions have already been made regarding the mentality and psychology of alien groups that this method has become somewhat compromised. For instance, some European writes supposed and believed that the only languages, good for correct and exact expressions of ideas, are the European languages, and mainly the language in which the authors were writing. The lack of knowledge of languages might be an excuse for such an opinion, but at the present time when the study of non-European languages is rather advanced such opinions (they are still met with from time to time in the publications of prominent writers) ought to be regarded as a sign of real ignorance and thus used not as scientific opinion, but as material for European ethnography. This opinion received very heavy blows when the European scientific works were successfully translated into the so-called Ural-Altaic languages and the sciences professed in the university (Finland, Hungary, Turkey). The last blow to the old conception was that when the Japanese and even Chinese languages, at least partly, overcame this difficulty. All languages -with some additions and borrowing of technical terms, may be adapted for the needs of European science, which is also true of the European dialects. It may be also remembered that among the early linguists it was believed that the «primitive» languages possessed no morphological system (inferiority as opposed to the European superiority). Under the pressure of facts this opinion changed into an opposite opinion, — the «progress» of language consists in the loss of morphology which was again a new variety of the old complexes. However, under the pressure of new facts the opinion of linguists changed once more, - the change from simple to a complex morphology, and vice versa are met with, so the modern linguists begin to investigate the complexes and recognize that all forms are possible. Still, these old conceptions under new and slightly different forms from time to time appear even in the writing of the linguists.

30. Description and interpretation of shamanistic and other «religious» and «magic» implements meet with great hindrances when the investigator is imbued with the European (or other) ethnographical complex. These objects are very often regarded as «fetishes», «idols» etc. while in reality they may be simple symbols and «placings for spirits». Description of the shaman's costume is, for instance, a very important item, but one very often forgets that the same elements may have entirely different meaning in different complexes or even have no «meaning» at all, being preserved as simple marks of distinction. The use of these objects becomes reliable only on condition that they are correctly defined in the given complex.

31. The question is how to make a definition of the limits of «normal» and «abnormal» which sometimes present some difficulties. Since in the hospital conditions the specialists very often find themselves in a difficulty to label the intermediary cases, in the conditions of field-work it is sometimes altogether impossible. Yet, there are some disturbances so frequent in the ethnical units and even territorial units, that they cannot be regarded as «abnormal» in the given groups.

32. It is very common that the persons who are not familiar with field-work make their suggestions to the field-workers, even propose their programs of investigation, sometimes attracting attention of the investigators to the questions which are difficult only for the people who confine their work to the study of the existing literature. Yet, the influence of these people is sometimes more dangerous for the investigator than the theoretical aberrations discussed in the previous section. Practically the investigator must adapt himself to the complexes under the investigation. Indeed, if he is unable to do this, it may be supposed that even with good programs he will produce no useful work and will burden the existing publications with a new failure. In the eyes of critics and persons patronizing such an investigator his publications very often become more valuable than the original investigations which bring up new material and a new treatment. But since this question is one of the questions connected with science as an ethnographical phenomenon of the European complex, I shall come back to it in my other publications.

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