The Alliance of Anthropological and Sociological concepts and Methodologies in Field research in Thailand. พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Milton Jacobs   




                                 IN FIELD RESEARCH IN THAILAND


                                                    Milton Jacobs*


This paper is an answer, albeit a partial one, to the question that
deals with the compatibilities between the two disciplines, anthropology
and sociology. My view is that the two fields are so closely related that
the future growth of both depends upon their cooperation and willingness
to understand one another.

Let me put forth my position plainly. It seems to me that the or-
thodox anthropological field techniques are well suited to the study of
small societies. Where the problem of research lies imbedded in large
urban areas, sizable rural areas, or even in nations, then I doubt that our
type of intimate research . . . participation-observation, interviewing
informants, obtaining life histories, giving psychological tests to small
numbers, are adequate to the task. The opportunities for field research
these days take the researcher into developing countries in Africa, Asia,
and Latin America as well as into new concerns in our own society. We
must be quite aware that we are dealing with countries of some millions
of inhabitants and with the problems of such countries. Under these
circumstances, a new perspective is required; this new perspective calls
for the alliance of our two fields and militates against isolationism.

Calling for the collaboration of these two disciplines shows my
bias. The major problems of city decay, poverty, and a polluted envi-
ronment in the industrial world as well as the multitude of problems in
the Third World require the concerted efforts of the entire family of
physical scientists, engineers, humanists, and social scientists.

would suggest, as a beginning, that the anthropologist and the

sociologist must work hand in hand in order to begin to achieve the
significant research required by these times of ferment and explosions.
To demonstrate this hand in hand approach, I would like to discuss field


* Professor of Anthropology, State University College, New Paltz, New York, U.S.A.






36                                                   Milton Jacobs


work that I conducted in Thailand in 1961-62.1 Simply stated, I utilized

as the major framework of the study design the folk-urban continuum of

Redfield (1960). As is known, Redfield arrived at his concept through
classical anthropological research in Central America. In a sense then,
I viewed the Redfield concept as a hypothesis which I attempted to test
and amplify by using the more sociologically accepted techniques of
systematic sampling of urban and rural areas, interviewing with struc-
tured questionnaires, quantifying the responses to questions, setting up
specific cross tabulations, and applying statistical tests of significance to
the tables. In this fashion, we do not generalize on the basis of a handful
of village studies but rather make the generalizations after we have
tested the hypotheses derived from village level research. I am suggesting
that anthropologists will undertake the hypothesizing role and the sociol-
gists will undertake the verifying role. Both roles are after all com-
ponents of the scientific method. This paper is a demonstration of such
a cooperative enterprise.



1) A short note on the research design :

  1. The study represented an attempt to gather empirical information concern-
    ing communications behavior. A large number of persons were asked to
    describe their own recent behavior. In order that findings might apply to
    many parts of Thailand, seven locations were selected to include Bangkok,
    three provincial capitals, and three villages. In these selected locations,
    area probability sampling was employed to select the respondents for

  2. The questionnaire was designed generally to obtain descriptions of a number
    of different social and geographical conditions. The data allowed the
    partial completion of the well-known formula of communication :— source
    (who says ?), content (what ?), audience (to whom ?) media (how ?), and
    effect (with what effect ?). It should be noted that the "with what effect"
    component of the formula was not studied. Specifically, the questionnaire
    contained questions dealing with (i) exposure to the mass media; (ii) word-
    of-mouth behavior with respect to passing political and personal informa-
    tion and to receiving or giving advice; (iii) word-of-mouth behavior in
    different social contexts and in spatial contexts (travel, migration); and (iv)
    the respondents' background.

    3.   The interviewers asked the questions as written in the Thai-language ver-
          sions of the questionnaire and either recorded the spontaneous responses
          verbatim or fitted the responses into precoded categories for certain items.
          If the respondent failed to understand a question, the interviewer was instru-
          cted to rephrase it slightly to obtain a response. The sequential arrange-
          ment of the questions was such that in some cases all questions were not
          asked of all respondents. Whether or not certain questions were asked
          depended upon the response or lack of response to the preceding ones.


                                           METHODOLOGIES IN FIELD RESEARCH IN THAILAND               37



The above sequence can be reversed. There are examples where
sociological research, theory, and hypotheses operate within a particular
cultural context. It is then good practice to replicate the study or to
attempt to test the hypothesis in other cultural contexts thus moving
toward greater generality. Of course, this is what sociologists are now
calling comparative sociology.

Admittedly then, this complementing of anthropology and sociology
should be a two-way street, but I would argue that in the developing
countries the small scale anthropological studies based on a number of
villages, for example, should occur first and should provide for the
initial hypothesizing. The sociological concern for quantification and
sampling should follow to test out the anthropological hypotheses.
There are a number of reasons why this seems preferable : (1) it allows
for more flexibility; (2) it allows for more depth research although adm-
ittedly on a small scale; (3) lastly, it is more practical, easily managed,
and less costly.

The example of testing anthropological hypotheses or concepts by
sociological methods which I want to present in brief form is as follows :
Following Redfield's folk-urban (traditional-modern) continuum, how
can we define or better delineate the traditional, transitional, and modern
Thai on the basis of sociological characteristics like spatial mobility,
social isolation, exposure to the mass media, and communication beha-
vior ?

I am aware of the controversy (Foster : 1967: 2-4) over thefolk-urban
continuum and admit the confusion that Redfield (1953 : 7, 22, 31, 33)
created by using "folk" and "peasant" interchangeably. However, I am
convinced that it is a useful typology and can serve with some adjustment
in the analysis of Thai society. For example, I find more similarity than
difference in Miner's (1967 : 3) descriptions of Redfield's folk-urban typo-
logy and the rural-urban continuum. In a sense, the rural-urban conti-
nuum fits within the larger continuum called the folk-urban.

The adjustment that I referred to above is the creation of the
continuum— (1) village, (2) town, and (3) city. Since we are dealing
with a nation having political, cultural, and economic extensions, I
include the peasant village within the continuum but exclude the "pri-
mitive" village of the hills tribesmen (Service : 1971 : 390). But I must
first admit the resemblances between the folk and the peasant village.
Perhaps, a tabular presentation of data can best point out these similari-
ties as well as the differences and can indicate the characteristics of the
village-town-city continuum :











  1. The concepts "folk" and "little community" are used synonomously by Redfield
    (1955 : 3, 4, 144).

  2. Peasants are referred to as rural natives whose life style take account of the city
    (Redfield: 1953: 31).

  3. Redfield : 1953 : 7-13, 22.

  4. "Isolated" refers to the infrequent contacts between urban peoples and village
    people (Halpern : 1967 : 38), and to the lack of literacy of the folk culture
    (Redfield: 1941 : 16, 17).

  5. Peasants are said to possess the "traditional moral solidarity found in any isola-
    ted folk society." (Redfied : 1953 : 39).

  6. Service: 1971 : 441; Redfield : 1953:33.

  7. Service : 1971 : 457; Redfield : 1953 : 53.

  8. Redfield: 1953 : 22.

  9. Halpern: 1967: 38.










Most of the "precivilized characteristics" of the folk culture or
"little community" are opposites of the "civilized characteristics" of the
urban culture. The peasant village and the primitive village share many
of these precivilized characteristics except that they may appear to a
somewhat lesser degree in the peasant village. The main difference
between the two types of villages is that there is some presence of literacy
in the peasant village and none in the primitive village. At the same
time the important connections between the city and the peasant village
must be stated : (1) the peasant village is linked to the city through the
market economy and (2) the peasant village is controlled politically by
the city.

Rather than putting forth a typology or a continuum as has been
illustrated above, Hauser (1965:8, 9) prefers to use the term urbanization
as a social process which has brought about changes in life style. As if
influenced by Hauser's viewpoint, I choose to examine social interactions
as examples or segments of life style : everyday (personal topics) word-
of-mouth behavior, political discussions2, advice-giving and advice-
seeking in the study in Thailand. In all cases, I was interested in deter-
mining the sociological characteristics of both parties in these interactions.
In addition, it was possible to look for differences among these social
interactions as we compared them in (1 ) the city (Bangkok), (2) the towns
(the provincial capitals), and (3) the villages. Thus, I combined the
continuum concept with Hauser's emphasis on social process.

My examination of the practices of passing personal information

showed that there is a greater similarity of male and female behavior in
Bangkok (city) than in the provincial capitals (town) and villages where
males are generally more active than females (Table IA-1).


2) If a respondent reported to the interviewer that he had recently discussed a
political topic, the interviewer would ask him to describe the nature of the
topic. In this way we were able to verify that the topic was truly political.
The interviewers were native Thai speakers. Those who coded the question-
naires were also native Thai speakers.








40                                    Milton Jacobs



       Table I. The Passing of Information by Word-of-mouth






* The number without parentheses is the percentage; the one within the paren-
theses refers to the number of cases involved.
** The Occupational Levels subsume specific occupations and are generally
correlated with power, prestige, and education. Some students of Thailand
argue that attempting to construct a class system for Thailand is meaningless
but insist that occupation is a highly significant social differentiating variable.
Level I includes the following occupations which are government or large-or-
ganization oriented and require certain kinds of formal training or education :
government officials, military-police, teachers, professionals, white collar
workers, and students. Level II is made up mainly of persons in the commercial
field who own business : merchants. Level III includes occupations requiring
few complicated skills and therefore little in the way of formal training or
education : transport workers, waiters, gas station attendants, store clerks,
laborers (skilled and unskilled), farmers, and fishermen,








If the information being passed is political, then males are even
more involved generally than females but are again somewhat more
active in Bangkok than elsewhere (Table IA-2).

There are more advice-giving interactions in Bangkok than in the
provincial capitals. Provincial females are just as likely to give advice
as their male counterparts. In Bangkok, more males than females give
advice. Similar behavior seems exemplified by the women while the
urban-rural dichotomy is more striking among males (Table I B).

The less urban (or more rural) Thai males are more socially res-
tricted than the urban males in that the former (39%; N=130) are less
likely to cross occupational lines in their social interactions than the
latter (48%; N=243).

What about social interactions that involve connecting distant
points ... or carrying information from one point to another ? Which
Thai are involved in such interactions ?

Urban Thai (27%; N=546) are more likely to become involved in
long distance interactions than rural Thai (9%; N=102); the urban Thai
(36%; N=126) are also more spatially mobile than the urban Chinese
(14%; N=40). Similarly, travel beyond the limits of their home city is
practiced by the urban Thai (32%) to a greater extent than the rural
Thai (15%). Further, those urban Thai who are involved in long distance
social interactions and in travel are characterized as more modern than
traditional by virtue of their occupations (Level I=46%) and education
of western orientation. In another study limited to urban Thai males,
we discovered that monks, professionals and the military were vitally
involved in word-of-mouth communication as sources and discussants
of political information and as advice-givers (Jacobs et al : Social Forces,
1966). This is corroboration to some extent of the previous statement
about prestigeful western-oriented occupations being more involved in
significant social interactions than non-prestigeful professions.

Political conversations or discussions2 in the work and friendship
contexts occur more frequently in urban areas than in rural areas (See
Table II),








40                                    Milton Jacobs


Table II. Percentage of Conversation Reported by Male Respondents as

               Having Political Content




In a number of different contexts we find that the more modern
segment of the social structure-the professionals of western orientation-
exhibits greater involvement in political discussions than the more tra-
ditional segments (peasants, farmers, fishermen, laborers).

An examination of the status relationships in the work context,
between male respondents and their reliable sources of news indicates
that respondents in the villages (42%; N=35) and provincial cities (29%;
N=121) tend to seek out their superiors for this function to a greater
extent than Bangkok respondents (11%;N=177). In other words, the
provincials and villagers behave more traditionally in following the
usual Thai superordinate-subordinate pattern of behavior. Examining
word-of-mouth networks along the village-town-city continuum (my
modification of Redfield's folk-urban continuum) casts additional light on
the Thai society. The data presented so far also helps us define more
precisely the homogeneity of the village culture and the heterogeneity of
the urban culture :3


(3) My statement is reminiscent of Redfield's stated objective of his Yucatan study,

      that is to investigate the differences between "isolate homogeneous society"

      and "mobile heterogeneous society" (Redfield : 1941 : 17).










So far, we have restricted ourselves to a study of social interactions
as a means of possibly bringing different ideas to people in Thailand.
The mass media can also bring new ideas (common to the urban culture)
to the rural or village culture. The data on the mass media are presen-
ted in Table III.


                      Table III. Exposure of Male Respondents to the Mass Media (1961-62)









44                                               Milton Jacobs


Most of the conclusions reached in this study have been reached
on the basis of dyads in the word-of-mouth process such as A passes
everyday information to B, A gives advice to B, or A discusses politics
with B : (1) Level I respondents interact with only Level I persons on all
three kinds of word-of-mouth networks. (2) Level II respondents are
apparently most frequently in word-of-mouth contact with Level I per-
sons and secondly with their own kind except in political discussions
where they prefer Level I and III persons. (3) Level III respondents
discuss personal information mostly with Level I persons, somewhat
with Level II persons, and least with Level III persons like themselves;
in the other two networks they interact with Level I and their own kind.
Thus, we see that although the respondents' own occupational group is
always present, as would be expected, the high prestige occupations
definitely and significantly belong to most of the triads. Thus, all occu-
pational levels seem to gravitate toward more prestigeful occupations as
reliable sources of news and as political discussants. (See Table IV).

Table IV. Word-of-Mouth Dyads : Thai Respondents and (a) Their Re-
liable Sources of News, (b) Discussants of Personal and
(c) Political Information; by Occupational Levels











*The roman numerals in the cells (a) through (c) refer to the indi-
viduals, identified by occupational levels, with whom the Thai respon-
dents interact for different communication purposes. The roman num-
erals are arranged according to magnitude.

It would seem that such empirical findings need explanation or
refinement. Such explanation or refinement is found in Lucien Hanks'
anthropological work in Thailand (AA : 1962). Hanks' article, "Merit
and Power in the Thai Social Order" is not concerned with communica-
tions in Thailand but is an attempt to explain the Thai social order.
Hanks (p. 1247) makes the point that the Thai hierarchy depends on a
composite quality called "merit" and explains (p. 1248) that a man's merit
may be lost or it may be gained. The man with merit-based effectiveness
becomes the nucleus of a group to which he distributes resources and
benefits (p. 1249). Such groups, he describes, as tiny hierarchies with
the superior... or the man with merit... showering benefits on his nearest
inferior, who then relays some portion to someone beneath him. The
ideal example—where persons interact with others immediately adjacent
to their station (status)-is found in the large Thai government bureaus,
but Hanks feels that this hierarchical structure is also significantly
present throughout Thai society.

Hanks' work helps us to interpret word-of-mouth flow of information
through the Thai social structure. His use of the concept "merit"
explains to some extent why and how certain Thai, particularly govern-
ment officials, teachers, military officers, and monks, function effectively
as key word-of-mouth communicators and advice-givers (influentials).
The relationship between word-of-mouth communications and the
hierarchical structure of the Thai social order is reflected again and again.
When asked to describe that person who is most reliable as a source of
political news, the Thai respondents used such words as "respectability,"
"being learned," and "being informed" which are applicable to those
who occupy the upper end of the social hierarchy or who possess "merit".

As part of the fieldwork, I used a projective picture displaying two
Thai men (attired simply and similarly) sitting on a porch. The respon-
dents were told that the man on the left (the advice-seeker) in the picture
had come to ask advice from the man on the right and then were asked
to describe the man on the right (the advice-giver). In this indirect way
the Thai respondents were given an opportunity to describe the kind of
person they sought out for important personal advice. The descriptive









 46                                                Milton Jacobs


terms consisted of (1) personal characteristics such as experienced, old,
religious, rich, and powerful, which are clearly merit-related and (2) direct
references to high status indicating that merit is automatically present.
The data from the projective picture corroborated the hierarchical
character of word-of-mouth networks and, therefore, its relationship to
the Thai social structure.

In summary, the study utilized two kinds of information : (1) the
skeletal word-of-mouth networks based on survey data and (2) the ma-
terial obtained mainly from an analysis of Thai Buddhism. By correlat-
ing the two kinds of data, I believe that we have demonstrated how
anthropology and sociology are complementing disciplines. I have given
two examples of this position as initially stated in this paper : (1) how
an anthropological concept is amplified by sociological methodology and
data and (2) how sociological findings-the arrangements of word-of-
mouth dyads-are explained by the anthropological analysis of merit. I
believe that such complementary works add richness and sharper defini-
tion to the principles and concepts in both fields. Finally, the study of
word-of-mouth behavior along the village-town-city continuum has shed
some additional light on the folk-urban controversy.



Foster, George M. "What Is a Peasant ?" in Peasant Society: A Reader edited by
J.M. Potter, Mary N. Diaz, and George M. Foster, Boston :
Little, Brown & Co., 1967.

Halpern, Joel M. The Changing Village Community. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. :
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1967.

Hanks, Lucien M. "Merit and Power in the Thai Social Order." American An-
thropologist, Vol. 64, No. 6, December 1962.

Hauser, Philip M. "Urbanization : An Overview" in The Study of Urbanization
edited by Philip M. Hauser and Leo F. Schnore, New York :

John Wiley, 1965.

Jacobs, Milton, Farhad Farzanegan, and Alexander R. Askenasy. "A Study of Key
Communicators in Urban Thailand." Social Forces, Vol. 45,
No. 2, December 1966.

Miner, Horace. The City in Modern Africa. New York : Frederick A. Praeger,

Redfield, Robert. The Folk Culture of Yucatan. Chicago : The University of
Chicago Press, 1941.

The Primitive World and Its Transformations. Ithaca : Great
Seal Books, 1953.

The Little Community and Peasant Society and Culture. Chicago :
The University of Chicago Press, 1960.

Service, Elman R. Profiles in Ethnology. New York : Harper and Row, 1971.
(revised edition)





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