Anthropology IA. To what extent do socio-cultural aspects, such as language and methods of communication, exemplify the ways in which families/ friends and departing/arriving passengers experience travel and airports?

Authors Avatar by cherno (student)

Cherno Okafor

Ms. Kilbourn


September 19th, 2012

Internal Assessment HL (Field Research) Step 1

I have decided to opt for an issue-based approach within a greater context based setting, and investigate some of the social and cultural aspects such as language and communication, customs, and arts of the modern airport, and how it is experienced by passengers. I am focusing on Toronto Pearson International Airport Terminal 3 and while doing this, I will somewhat be attributing my own experiences from other airports I have come through on various trips throughout my life. These trips gave me the idea and inspiration to do fieldwork at the Toronto airport while combining my experiences with my interest in travel and airports.

I am well aware that most anthropological projects focus on places that are bound in time and place; where the anthropologist has a chance to develop close ties with the people being studied. The constant flux of passengers at the airport makes this difficult because the population is being replaced every couple of hours, so that is why I have a non-participant observation method. What fascinates me is the way in which the constant change and interaction of passengers in the airport raises questions of how people’s cultural values influence their perception and experience of movement and transit, and how during air travel, time and place are both compressed and interlinked in a complicated travel network system that works on a regional, national, and global level. My fieldwork, for the most part, will consist of observing some cultural/social aspects such as language and communication (non-participant observation) and interviewing passengers and people who work in the airport terminal and secondly, just first-hand observation. The purpose of this is to gain information and try to measure particular values/customs that inform certain behaviours of modern travelers’ perceptions of travel and experience of the airport. My research question revolves around the socio-cultural aspects of the airport; however it is split into two parts, one for my first-hand observation, and one for my interviews (participant). The main question I want to investigate in the observation process is: To what extent does language and methods of communication exemplify the ways in which families/friends of arriving passengers experience and cope with airport culture? This will be investigated in my (non-participant observation method). For my interviews (participant observation method), I will be investigating the socio-cultural values/customs of passengers which influence their experience of mobility and travel within a smaller context of the world. From the first-hand observation, it is suitable to my research because I can gain even more open-mindedness by observing people and their methods of language and communication and writing down my observations. This aids the fact of deciphering what the social aspects of the airport are in conjunction with the cultural aspects which will be presumably revealed in the interviews I will do. These methods all pertain to the anthropological theme of Individuals, groups, and society. My process also introduces the themes of Idealist vs. Realist and Particularist vs. Universalist. In both cases, the themes imply that the subculture of passengers are guided by individual ideals (Idealist) vs. those governed by practical considerations (Realist). Also, it implies that some passengers have a particular approach; an exclusive interest in their own group (Particularism) rather than a universal interest (Universalism).

Join now!

Some of the ethical issues that may arise in my research are people getting a sense that I am staring at them, yet ironically, I do not like to be stared at. So I can overcome this ethical issue by simply observing with my peripheral vision and let my eyes wander around the Terminal and look at the general setting instead of plainly staring at a particular person or group of people. However, this is unlikely to be the case since there is a constant flux of passengers at the airport at the same time and no one really has ...

This is a preview of the whole essay