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Tue 5 Feb, Tue 12 Feb, ... Tue 26 Feb 2019
15:30 - 17:00

Venue: 8 Mill Lane, Lecture Room 4

Provided by: Social Sciences Research Methods Programme


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Other dates:

Tue 4 Feb 2020

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Ethnographic Methods

Tue 5 Feb, Tue 12 Feb, ... Tue 26 Feb 2019


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: Ethnographies in Confinement
The practice of ethnography varies greatly depending on its setting. This session will consider the value, practice, epistemology and ethics of ethnographic research conducted in organisations, particularly those, such as prisons and psychiatric institutions, which confine people. How can we ensure access, and what are the political and ethical ramifications of doing so? How can we ethically conduct research in an institution in which people are held against their will? What are the epistemological issues when ‘free’ researchers conduct research in spaces of confinement?

Session 3: Ethnographies of Freedom
Building on the previous week’s session, this session this session will consider how the practice of ethnography differs when it is conducted in more permeable institutions. There are many advantages to conducting research where the setting is less boundaried – access is less complex, and consent can feel harder to gauge – but other issues are raised. What is the role of the ethnographer in something that looks like everyday life? What does it mean to leave the field? What is the difference between ‘research’ and ‘friendship’? And what actually is the site of study?

Session 4: Photography and Audio Recording in Ethnographic Work
What kinds of audiovisual equipment, and practices of photography and sound recording, can be used to support an ethnographer’s research process? What kinds of the epistemological, theoretical, social, and ethical considerations tend to arise around possible use of these technologies in anthropological fieldwork and analysis?


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 SSRMC modules: Comparative Historical Methods; Foundations of Qualitative Methods; Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis; Doing Qualitative Interviews; Conversation and Discourse Analysis.


Number of sessions: 4

# Date Time Venue Trainer
1 Tue 5 Feb   15:30 - 17:00 15:30 - 17:00 8 Mill Lane, Lecture Room 4 map Dr Andrew Sanchez
2 Tue 12 Feb   15:30 - 17:00 15:30 - 17:00 8 Mill Lane, Lecture Room 4 map Alice Ievins
3 Tue 19 Feb   15:30 - 17:00 15:30 - 17:00 8 Mill Lane, Lecture Room 4 map Alice Ievins
4 Tue 26 Feb   15:30 - 17:00 15:30 - 17:00 8 Mill Lane, Lecture Room 4 map Dr Rupert Stasch
  • 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 (A. Ievins)
  • Crewe, B. 2009 ‘Appendix: Notes on the research process’, in The Prisoner Society: Power, Adaptation and Social Life in an English Prison. (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp.463-489.
  • Eberle, T.S. & Maeder, C. 2011 ‘Organizational ethnography’, in D. Silverman (ed) Qualitative Research, 3rd edn. (London: Sage), pp.53-74.
  • Cohen, S. & Taylor, L. 1972 ‘Getting into a maximum security wing’, in Psychological Survival: The Experience of Long-Term Imprisonment. (Harmondsworth: Penguin), pp.11-40.

Relevant illustrative article for this session: Crewe, B. ‘Prison drug dealing and the ethnographic lens’. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 45(4), pp.347-368.

Session 3: Further Reading (A. Ievins)
  • Hammersley, M. & Atkinson, P. 1995. ‘Field relations’, in Ethnography: Principles in Practice, 2nd edn. (London: Routledge), pp.80-123.
  • Smith, D.E. 2002. ‘Institutional ethnography’, in Qualitative Research in Action. (London: Sage), pp.17-52.
  • Ferrell, J. & Hamm, M.S. 1998 ‘True confessions: Crime, deviance, and field research’, in Ethnography at the Edge: Crime, Deviance, and Field Research. (Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press), pp.2-19.
  • Malcolm, J. 2012 The Journalist and the Murderer. (London: Granta).
  • Goffman, A. 2014. ‘Appendix: A methodological note’, in On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City. (London: University of Chicago Press), pp.211-261.

Relevant illustrative article for this session: Sharpe, G. 2017 ‘Sociological stalking? Methods, ethics and power in longitudinal criminological research’, Criminology & Criminal Justice, 17(3), pp.233-247.

Session 4: Further Reading (R. Stasch)
  • King, A. 2015. Add language documentation to any ethnographic project in six steps. Anthropology Today 31, 8-12.
  • Pinney, C. 2011. Photography and anthropology. London: Reaktion.
  • Taylor, L. 1996. Iconophobia. Transition 69, 64-88.
  • Weinberger, E. 1992. The camera people. Transition 55, 24-54.

Relevant illustrative article for this session:


This module is not assessed.

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Qualitative Methods

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