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Tue 4 Feb, Tue 11 Feb, ... Thu 27 Feb 2020
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Provided by: Social Sciences Research Methods Programme


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Ethnographic Methods

Tue 4 Feb, Tue 11 Feb, ... Thu 27 Feb 2020


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: 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?

Session 3: Relationships in the Field
Ethnographic methodology and participant observation often involve researchers’ positioning in existing networks of social relations. This session is meant to help attendees manage interpersonal relationships with research participants from academic, political, and ethical perspectives. We will discuss when and why relationships in ethnographic fieldwork can be a reason for concern. We will reflect on the social distinctions that emerge when doing fieldwork with other people and their effects on researchers’ decision-making process. Finally, we will think through different fieldwork strategies when working with others, and how they impact the production of ethnographic knowledge.

Session 4: Defining the Fieldsite
This session is meant to equip attendees with the practical skill of how to determine, or work with, the limits of the fieldsite. Drawing on reflections on the challenges of working across sprawling geographical fields, as well as more enclosed geographical sites, we will discuss strategies for either strategically bounding the seemingly infinite fieldsite, or letting the boundaries of an already limited one work for you. We will also discuss how this methodological decision might impact the theoretical insights that emerge from a period of fieldwork, as well as how it impacts the interview process, methods of participant observation, and strategies for developing relationships with gatekeepers and interlocutors

PLEASE NOTE: Update on additional teaching - we have now scheduled the two additional sessions on 18 and 25 February. Further information on their content will follow.

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 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 4 Feb   15:30 - 17:00 15:30 - 17:00 8 Mill Lane, Lecture Room 2 map Dr Andrew Sanchez
2 Tue 11 Feb   15:30 - 17:00 15:30 - 17:00 8 Mill Lane, Lecture Room 2 map Dr Rupert Stasch
3 Tue 18 Feb   15:30 - 17:00 15:30 - 17:00 8 Mill Lane, Lecture Room 2 map Ana Sofia Ugarte-Pfingsthorn
4 Thu 27 Feb   16:00 - 17:30 16:00 - 17:30 8 Mill Lane, Lecture Room 7 map Natalie Camille Morningstar
  • 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 (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.
Session 3: Further Reading (S. Ugarte)
  • Gay y Blasco, P., & De La Cruz Hernandez, L. (2012). Friendship, anthropology. Anthropology and Humanism, 37(1), 1-14.
  • Joniak-Lüthi, A. (2016). Disciplines, silences and fieldwork methodology under surveillance. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 141(2).
  • Kovats‐Bernat, J. C. (2002). Negotiating dangerous fields: Pragmatic strategies for fieldwork amid violence and terror. American Anthropologist 104(1), 208-222.
  • Uddin, N. (2011). Decolonising ethnography in the field: an anthropological account. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 14(6), 455-467.
Session 4: Further Reading (N. Morningstar)


  • Marcus, G. E. 1995. Ethnography in/of the world system: The emergence of multi-sited ethnography. Annual review of anthropology 24(1): 95-117.
  • Candea, M. 2007. Arbitrary locations: in defence of the bounded field‐site. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13(1): 167-184.
  • Cook, J., J. Laidlaw & J. Mair 2009. What if there is no elephant? Towards a conception of an un-sited field. Multi-sited ethnography: Theory, praxis and locality in contemporary research: 47-72.

This module is not assessed.

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Qualitative Methods

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