Life in Communities

Spike Gildea – and Jorge Emilio Rosés Labrada –  

Workshop description: This workshop provides an introduction to the personal and practical dimensions of what has historically been called fieldwork, the situation in which a researcher enters a community for the purposes of studying the language and/or culture of the people in that community. Topics covered include preparation for both travel and cross-cultural communication; establishing contact and getting settled in a community; building and maintaining productive and satisfying relationships with consultants, the host community, and local institutions; health and safety in the field; balancing research and social goals; and similar topics.

Course materials: Readings TBD. The instructors will make all course materials accessible to the workshop participants.

Supplies needed: None

Course goals: Given the widely recognized danger the world’s languages face at the present time, there has been a major expansion of language documentation and linguistic description, which requires what has been traditionally referred to as linguistic fieldwork. We generally prepare our students to undertake this work through field methods courses but “[w]hile we generally do a very thorough job of teaching how to elicit and analyze data, we often forget to tell them that there is a personal and practical side to fieldwork that can very well derail their research if they are not prepared for it.” (Macauley, 2004:194). The overall goal of this workshop is, therefore, to familiarize the students with the personal and practical dimensions of fieldwork.

Student learning objectives: At the end of this workshop, students will be able to:

  • Understand some of the necessary steps prior to starting fieldwork
  • Develop their understanding of health and safety in the field
  • Discuss ethical concerns that might arise during fieldwork and possible solutions
  • Critically examine their role as both researcher and person in the community they work in

Instructional methods: This workshop will be taught through a combination of lecture, group activities, and discussion.

This workshop will be Pass/Fail. Full attendance is required for a Pass. At the end of the class, students will be asked to write a short paper reflecting on how the workshop has informed their understanding of life in the communities where they do—or would like to do—their research.  

Disabilities services: UAF requires this statement to be provided on every syllabus:
“The Office of Disability Services implements the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and insures that UAF students have equal access to the campus and course materials. The instructor will work with the Office of Disabilities Services (208 WHIT, 474-5655) to provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities.”