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Provided by: Social Sciences Research Methods Programme

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Thu 2 Feb 2023

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Ethnographic Methods


This module is an introduction to ethnographic fieldwork and analysis and is intended for students in fields other than anthropology. It provides an introduction to contemporary debates in ethnography, and an outline of how selected methods may be used in ethnographic study.

The ethnographic method was originally developed in the field of social anthropology, but has grown in popularity across several disciplines, including sociology, geography, criminology, education and organization studies.

Ethnographic research is a largely qualitative method, based upon participant observation among small samples of people for extended periods. A community of research participants might be defined on the basis of ethnicity, geography, language, social class, or on the basis of membership of a group or organization. An ethnographer aims to engage closely with the culture and experiences of their research participants, to produce a holistic analysis of their fieldsite.

Session 1: The Ethnographic Method What is ethnography? Can ethnographic research and writing be objective? How does one conduct ethnographic research responsibly and ethically?

Session 2: Recording the field: Notes, Images, Sounds

Session 3: Intersubjectivity, Vulnerability and Collaboration

Session 4: Found Objects: Building and Reading an Archive

Target audience
  • University Students from Tier 1 Departments
  • Further details regarding eligibility criteria are available here

Students attending this module are expected to have a working understanding of qualitative methods in social research. In advance of attending this module, we would advise taking two or more of the following SSRMP modules: Comparative Historical Methods; Foundations of Qualitative Methods; Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis; Doing Qualitative Interviews; Conversation and Discourse Analysis.

  • To involve students in the study of ongoing debates on ethnographic practice 
  • To look at the practical implications of research in different disciplines
  • To consider how to apply different ethnographic strategies and styles
  • To introduce students to qualitative audiovisual methods
  • To introduce ethnographic methods to non-anthropologists
  • To review the history of ethnographic research in anthropology and other social sciences

Presentations only

Session 1: Further Reading (A. Sanchez)
  • Contreras, R. 2013 ‘Introduction’ in The Stickup Kids: Race, Drugs, Violence and the American Dream. (Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press). pp 1-32
  • Gay y Blasco, P. & Wardle, H. 2006. ‘Introduction: the concerns and distinctiveness of ethnography‘ in How to Read Ethnography (London; New York: Routledge) pp. 1-13
  • Geertz, C. 1984. ‘Anti Anti-Relativism’ American Anthropologist 86 (2): 263-278 
  • Kuper, A. 1996. ‘Malinowski’ in Anthropology and Anthropologists: The Modern British School 3rd edition (London; New York: Routledge) pp. 1-35
  • Parry, JP. 2012. ‘Comparative Reflections on Fieldwork in Urban India: A Personal Account’ in Pardo, I. & Prato, GB. Anthropology in the City: Methodology and Theory. (Farnham: Ashgate). pp. 29-53.
  • Rosaldo, R. 1993 [1989] ‘Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage’ in R. Rosaldo Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis (Boston: Beacon Press; London: Taylor & Francis). pp. 167-178
  • West, P. 2012 ‘International Coffee’ in From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The Social World of Coffee from Papua New Guinea (Durham; London: Duke) pp. 201-236
Session 2: Further Reading (V. Cova)
  • Emerson, R. M, Fretz, R. I and Shaw, L. L. 2011. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  • Pinney, C. 2011. Photography and anthropology. London: Reaktion.
  • Geismar, H. 2014. "Drawing it Out". Vis. Anthropol. Rev., 30: 97-113.
  • Kuschnir, K. 2016. "ETHNOGRAPHIC DRAWING: ELEVEN BENEFITS OF USING A SKETCHBOOK FOR FIELDWORK" in Visual Ethnography, 5(1) 103-134
Session 3: Further Reading (V. Cova)
  • Toren, C. 2011. "Intersubjectivity as Epistemology" in The Challenge of Epistemology: Anthropological Perspectives, ed. C. Toren and J. Pina-Cabral. Oxford: Bergahn Books
  • Favret-Saada, J. 2009. The Anti-Witch. CHicago: HAU Books
  • Kulick, D. 2005. "The Erotic Life of anthropologists: erotic subjectivity and ethnographic work" in Taboo:Sex, Identity and Erotic Subjectivity in Ethnographic Fieldwork,ed. D. Kulick and M. Willson. New York: Routledge
  • Rubenstein, S. 2004. "Fieldwork and the Erotic Economy on the Colonial Frontier". Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 29 (4)
  • Gay y Blasco, P. and Hernández, L. 2019. Writing Friendship: A Reciprocal Ethnography. London: Palgrave.
Session 4: Further Reading (V. Cova)
  • Riles, A. (ed.) 2006. Documents: Artifacts of Modern Knowledge. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
  • Martínez, F. 2021. Ethnographic Experiments with Artists, Designers and Boundary Objects: Exhibitions as Research Method. London: UCL Press
  • Rubenstein, S. 2007. "Circulation, Accumulation, and the Power of Shuar Shrunken Heads" . Cultural Anthropology Vol. 22, No. 3
  • Lemonnier, P. 2012. "The Anthropological Complexity of Unremarkable Drums" in Mundane Objects. London: Taylor and Francis
  • Feldman, I. 2008. Governing Gaza: Bureaucracy, Authority, and the Work of Rule 1917-1967. Durham: Duke University Press.

This module is not assessed.

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Events available