This paper develops the tension between emic and etic analysis, recounting the experience of life on a cocoa farm in Ghana, from the perspective of an urban youth with familial connections to the rural community. The dual perspective of living in the city along with frequent visits to and summer sojourns on the farm provided an “outsider’s” perceptions of the rural culture. Yet even these dual emic perspectives were insufficient to bring recognition of the underlying economic realities of cocoa bean production that depended partly on migrant labor. That etic insight came later in the United Kingdom, when studying similar economic systems in Southeast Asia. The story vividly illustrates the necessity of both an emic, insider’s understanding of culture and etic, cross-cultural, scientific insight. Both perspectives are required to have a complete recognition of how the encapsulated beliefs and mores of one’s upbringing depend on the underlying forces of production that drive society. Similarly, the shifting and multilayered levels of what is emic and what is etic in a particular context are addressed in the explication of these personal experiences.

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