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  • 00:01


  • 00:11

    SARA DELAMONT: I'm Sara Delamont,and I've just retired from a long career teachingsocio-anthropology at Cardiff University.And I'm going to talk today about a pieceof traditional ethnographic fieldworkon the Brazilian martial art and dance called Capoeira.This particular project I have been doing for far longer

  • 00:32

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: than any other piece of fieldworkI've ever done in my life because I actuallydid some preparatory fieldwork in 2002.And I started this main study with Dr. Stephens in 2003.And so that is now 12 years.And I've never done a piece of fieldwork

  • 00:53

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: for that length of time before.But on the other hand, I'm studying somethingwhere there are classes two nights a week,and they are only two hours long.So in a way, although I've been doing it for 13 years,in terms of the number of hours I've been studying how Capoeirais taught and learned in the United Kingdom,

  • 01:14

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: the actual number of hours isn't very different from perhapsspending a year in a school.The classes happen in the evenings,and there are festivals at weekends.So I can do the research in my own time on top of the day job.And I've found it useful to keep on doing it because I've alwaystaught research methods a lot, and I actuallythink it's immoral to teach research methods if you're not

  • 01:37

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: yourself doing some research.It's Brazilian but almost certainly African in origin.It probably began somewhere in modern Angolaand when the slaves were taken to Brazil from 1500 onwards.And at least four million slaves were

  • 01:57

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: taken to Brazil, perhaps as many as six.Capoeira almost certainly went with them.It's a martial art, which in Brazil is a real fight.People knock each other over, and thump each other,and kick each other.But the way it's taught in Americaand in contemporary Europe, the teachersteach it as a non-contact sport most of the time.

  • 02:21

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: They put a lot of emphasis on escaping kicks.And it's done by men and women together, and children do it,and adults do it, and because it's non-contact,people can take part in Capoeira games--and they are called games, not fights.Capoeira is the only martial art that's done to music.You can't have Capoeira without music.

  • 02:42

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: So if somebody decides they want to learn Capoeira,they're not only going to learn a whole lot of bodily movesand also how to play-fight a game with another person,but they're also-- they may not know that when they start,but they're also going to learn to play five instruments.

  • 03:02

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: A Capoeira game is played inside a ring whichis made up of people sitting or standingwho are clapping the rhythm of what the musicians are playingbut also singing because Capoeirais done to songs, which are in African call-and-responsepattern.

  • 03:23

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: So somebody sings a verse and then everybody presentsings a chorus.The singing is always in Portuguese.And so the other thing that happensis people who take up Capoeira, findthat they will acquire quite a lot of Portuguese.

  • 03:44

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: I was interested because I taught a moduleon the anthropology of Brazil.And there are some wonderful ethnographies of Capoeirain Brazil that I had read.And so I was very keen to see what it looked like in-- live.And because I'm also an educational researcherI thought it would be a really interesting thingto see how it was taught and learned.

  • 04:04

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: So when a man, whose pseudonym I've given him is Achilles,started teaching in Cardiff, I went and found himand asked if I could watch.And I thought I'd watch for a few weeks,but I very quickly discovered that itwas an extremely interesting thing to do research on.And I've been doing research on it ever since.And the guy I do the research with was then a PhD student,

  • 04:26

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: and he was actually learning it.I didn't know he was learning it until I got to a classand found him there.And then we started working on it as a joint research project.And because it's very much about how people's bodies change,it's an extremely good thing to studyas a two-handed ethnography, where his body changes

  • 04:48

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: as he learns how to do the kicks,and so on, and I'm sitting watching.It's not very easy to study it when you're doing itbecause if you're standing on your hands,dripping with sweat, trying desperately not to be knockedover, it's not really very easy to think about sociology,or anthropology.On the other hand, of course, if you're merely

  • 05:10

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: sitting in a corner watching somebody standingon their hands, it's not terriblyeasy to imagine what that feels like.So we've done the research jointly, where he does it,I watch, and we write together.Somebody said to me once that what I was in favor ofwas of the research equivalent of the Slow Food movement.

  • 05:32

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: I'm not enthusiastic at all about peoplewho use qualitative methods as a kind of grab-and-run,as if it was a drive-through burger bar or something.I'm actually very much committed to quite long-term immersion.I like to be in a field setting for quite a long timeso people get used to you, and you can sort of

  • 05:53

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: sift out things they might do just because you are there.I try always to be early for classbecause I think that's a courtesy.And if by any chance the teacher atthe time-- I study mostly teacherswho now know me very well.But if, for instance, a teacher has got a visitor who's come

  • 06:13

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: or something like that, it means they can introduce meto them when they arrive, and I think that's a courtesy.And I'll find somewhere safe to stand or, ideally, sitbecause, of course, you can't watcha martial art unless you're quite careful you're notgetting in the way.So I'll write notes, and I will try

  • 06:35

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: to keep a very systematic record of-- Ialways count how many people are present.And I always keep the time down the left-hand side of the page.So every five minutes or so, I'll put what the time is.So if it's something where people are arrivingall the time, I would count every five minuteshow many more people have come since the last time.

  • 06:58

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: And with something like a martial arts class,I'll record how many men and how many women are present.I'll record whether they're in the uniformor in their ordinary clothes.If it's a class I watch regularly,I'll actually list the specific people who are there.But if I go to a strange class, I'lljust recall roughly age group, gender, and race.

  • 07:20

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: And then I'll actually record both the warm up--because in Britain, classes usuallystart with systematic stretching and warming up, particularlyin the winter, and I'll make notes about that.And then I actually record quite carefully everythingthe teacher teaches and how they teach it.And most classes consist of some formal instruction

  • 07:42

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: of individuals, often when they're in lines and thenpaired, practice, and then more instruction.And the last half hour of the classthere's normally actually a game,and people will stand in a circle,and two people go in and play each other for a little bitand then the teacher sends them out and two more come in.

  • 08:03

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: So the borderline in this research,between being an observer and being part of it,has gotten messier, and messier, and messier.And I wouldn't necessarily advocate that.It's very important that in any particular field site,you think very carefully about what you could and should do,and what you couldn't and shouldn't do.

  • 08:24

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: And that will be different, dependingon the age, and sex, and marital status, race,and so on, of the researcher.When I've written the research up into the long version,I don't necessarily spend a lot of time coding it.

  • 08:49

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: If I were doing this research for somethingthat I had to finish- something like a thesis-I would do more serious analytic work more often.Because this is a project that Doctor Stephens and I have beendoing really in our spare time for funand to give us some cool publications that

  • 09:10

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: are interesting, what we tend to dois we only do any serious analysis when we've decidedwe want to publish something.And I don't recommend that.I wouldn't advocate that.If anybody is an early career researcher,you should do more analysis as you go than I've done on this.But basically when I want to start--we want to start writing something,

  • 09:32

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: we get out some of the field notedata, the written up version.And at that stage we might word process itso we can both look at it.But otherwise, on the whole, we don't.We leave it in my own handwriting,and we sit in my office with a tape recorder running,

  • 09:54

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: and we discuss some chunks of data.And I will systematically interrogate himif there's anything going on that I don't thinkI understand, and we'll have botha clarificatory conversation.So I might say, what do you thinkthe teacher was trying to get you--when the teacher last night spent half the lesson on how

  • 10:19

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: to escape that kick, what did you think it was hewas trying to teach you?Because I might be able to guess,but if Dr. Stephens Neil was actually doing the class,he'll have some other ideas.And he may say something like, I'msure the problem was none of us was getting our leg highenough, or he was really trying to get us to think moreabout-- so sometimes I will ask him to help to explain what

  • 10:44

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: he thinks was going on.Sometimes he'll talk about how his own bodilyskills are changing.But mostly, by now we'll talk about the theoretical conceptswe're going to use, and we'll look at the dataand how realistically we can work up from the datato some theorized discussion of something.So we've got a paper that's about globalization

  • 11:06

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: and localization.And for that paper we were looking particularlyat what language groups sing in.Because as long as people sing in the Portuguese,it stays very global.If a group started singing in their own language--if a Norwegian group started singing in Norwegian,

  • 11:28

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: it would then, in a sense, have become globalized.And so we were working very hard on the use of languagein the classes to address that.And we spent four or five meetings looking closelyat chunks of data.Capoeira people, the teachers and the students,generally welcome being researched because they're

  • 11:52

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: very keen that everybody should find out about Capoeiraand learn to love it.And I've never been turned away from a class or a festival.Sometimes I have sent an email in advance saying,I'm going to be in Vancouver next week.Can I come and watch your classes?But mostly, if I'm somewhere, I just go.

  • 12:12

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: I find out where the classes are, and I just turn up.And I just explain that I've been doing researchon this thing.And people are normally very happy, and they normally say,that's fine.And the teacher will normally say to the students,this person is doing research on Capoeira.

  • 12:33

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: Do you mind if she watches?And everybody says, whatever.They're not actually bothered.And I think that's quite interesting.And it does make your research very different than researchin a school, where, of course, youcan't do research in a school without goingthrough formal procedures.And I think that's one of the things thatmakes this research really quite different from any

  • 12:55

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: I've ever done before, because you couldn't just turn upat a school on a Tuesday morning and say,can I watch the physics teaching?You wouldn't be allowed to.This on the other hand, classes arein things like church halls or youth centers or dance studiosor gyms, and you can just walk in off the street

  • 13:15

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: and say, hi, I'm so-and-so.I'm doing a study of how Capoeira is taught in Britain.Can I watch your class?And I've never been turned away.And I've got an ethics approval for this research,which is on that basis.So I think one of the things about this research

  • 13:37

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: is that it is a very welcoming field site.And, obviously, in one way that'svery unrealistic because most placesthat you do proper ethnography ittakes quite a long time to negotiate access.And when you get it, you get it with quite clear conditionswhich you absolutely mustn't violate.

  • 13:57

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: And so, I think, perhaps one reasonwhy I quite like this research is,unlike doing research in schools and universitiesand domestic violence shelters and all sorts of other placeswhere I have done research, is that this is like walkinginto a party with friends.I think the one other thing about it

  • 14:18

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: that's been a really interesting piece of research--and I wish all the research I'd ever donehad been this interesting-- is that because it's somethingthat's multi-cultural and physical and musical,and it's also something that the people who do

  • 14:38

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: are all volunteers, so they're all enjoying it,it's actually enormous fun.Because there's nothing nicer reallythan sitting in a room writing field notesabout a group of people who've chosen to be thereand are enjoying themselves.And having done lots of research in schools over my career,where at least half the class didn't really

  • 14:58

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: want to be working on quadratic equations on a Wednesdayafternoon, this is in some sense-- it's more pleasurable.And I think that's one of the things I've taken from it.I've written a book about how to do fieldwork, which is--

  • 15:22

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: I think fieldwork is important.And I think proper old-fashioned, traditionalethnography is very important and thatmakes me sound very hostile to things like multi-modal,and so on.But I think traditional ethnography alwayshas been multi-modal.You have to think about touch, taste, sound,

  • 15:42

    SARA DELAMONT [continued]: all those kinds of things.You have to think about smell and all those sortsof things all the time anyway.And I'm not wild about thinking about just multi-sensoryor multi-modal.I'm very committed to the notion that it is just good fieldwork.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Publication Year: 2017

Video Type:Video Case

Methods: Ethnography, Fieldwork

Keywords: Angola; anthropology; Brazil; clinical procedures; dance; dancing; globalization (sociology); immersion; language; localization; martial arts; music; physical activity and health; practices, strategies, and tools; Slave Route; Slavery; Slow food; Slow food movement; theoretical concepts ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Professor Sara Delamont has spent more than a decade researching the Brazilian martial art of capoeira with her partner, Professor Neil Stephens. In this video, she reflects on her methodology and practices, and she offers advice for fellow researchers.

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Researching Capoeira Using Two-Handed Ethnography

Professor Sara Delamont has spent more than a decade researching the Brazilian martial art of capoeira with her partner, Professor Neil Stephens. In this video, she reflects on her methodology and practices, and she offers advice for fellow researchers.