1. Course Outline 178 items

      The twofold aim of this course is to provide students with insight in the process by which anthropological knowledge is produced, and to train them in the collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. In doing so it offers students a methodological framework for conceptualizing and designing their PhD research projects.


      The course discusses the nature of ethnographic data and evidence, its implications for research, and ways of incorporating empirical data in ethnographic texts. The specific research techniques that will be covered include: (1) observation techniques (participant observation); (2) various approaches to asking questions and interviewing; (3) applying elicitation techniques; (4) research with documents and in archives; (5) network data and analysis; (6) modelling (including ethnographic decision tree modelling). In addition to developing skills in applying these techniques, the course will discuss them in relation to questions of reliability, validity, and generalizability, and their integration in anthropological research projects.


      Students will carry out a small research project in or near London in which they address a specific research question from different angles, employing the various techniques learned during this course, and writing reports about them. This practical dimension will feed back into seminar discussions of fieldwork dilemmas, such as case selection, access to the field, ethics, health and safety, note-taking, and textual representation.


      The seminars will be a blend of lecturing, student (and invited staff) presentations, in-class exercises, and discussion of the literature. Students will receive in-class feedback on their presentations, and written feedback on their research reports and their ethnographic essay.



      Assessment : AN471 is assessed by a 3,000-word essay (worth 30%), two 1,000-word reports (each worth 15%), an assigned presentation (worth 15%), and seminar participation (worth 25%) in the MT.


       The deadline for the essay is the last day of MT, Friday, 9th  December at 12:00. The two reports are to be submitted by 12:00 on Monday, 24th October and 12:00 on Monday, 21st November. The essay and reports are to be submitted by email to the course convener, Mathijs Pelkmans (



    2. Recommended Purchases 3 items
      1. Ethnographic fieldwork: an anthropological reader - Antonius C. G. M. Robben, Jeffrey A. Sluka 2012

        Book Suggested for Student Purchase

      2. For ethnography - Paul Atkinson 2015

        Book Suggested for Student Purchase

      3. Research methods in cultural anthropology - H. Russell Bernard c1988

        Book Suggested for Student Purchase

    3. WEEK 1 17 items
      1. Monday 25 September: Ethnography & Anthropology 1 item
        1. We often equate ethnography and anthropology: anthropologists conduct ethnography with the aim to write ethnographies, in other words anthropological accounts. In this first seminar reflect on the relationship between ethnography and anthropology to start a discussion of what anthropologists do, before, during, and after fieldwork.


          In preparation submit a brief – 100 to 150 word – account of your proposed research topic (to for circulation among seminar participants and guest speakers.


          Also, make sure to have read the seminar readings in combination with one recommended reading of your choice.

      2. Seminar Readings: 3 items
      3. Recommended Readings (read one) 5 items
        1. Two or three things I love about ethnography - Signe Howell 2017

          Article Background is part of the HAU debate

        2. On keeping up the tension between fieldwork and ethnography - Rita Astuti 2017

          Article Background is part of the HAU debate – and an LSE voice

        3. Method and Scope of Anthropological Fieldwork - Bronislaw Malinowski 2007 [1922].

          Chapter Background Obviously you _need_ to have read this

        4. Symbolic Interactionism and Ethnography - Paul Rock 2001

          Chapter Background useful and concise overview of what ethnographic research entails

      4. Friday 29 September: Ethnography & Knowledge 8 items
        1. This session takes a closer look at the construction of anthropological knowledge. Tracing the steps from perception to knowledge, we aim is to capture something of the different conceptual and practical moves that characterize the PhD trajectory. Perhaps there is no better way than to discuss this in relation to some examples of the product you will be submitting in a few years.


          In preparation for this session, scrutinize ONE University of London PhD thesis on a topic relevant to your own research interests, and prepare one or two pages of written notes which you should bring with you to the seminar as the basis for our discussion. Among other issues you may wish to consider:


          • The kinds of data or research materials, and how these are presented.

          • How these presented data and materials relate to the research question, and to the main argument(s).

        2. Seminar Reading: 2 items
        3. Recommended Readings (read one): 5 items
          1. Introduction - David Jacobson 1991

            Chapter Background straightforward and solid overview of how data is turned into evidence and textually organized - The Library is unable to provide an electronic copy of an extract from this book, due to copyright restrictions placed on it by the publisher.

          2. The Objects of Evidence - Matthew Engelke 2008

            Article Background concise overview of discussion on evidence – and an LSE voice

          3. Is Anthropology Art or Science? [and Comments and Reply] - Michael Carrithers, Andrew Barry, Ivan Brady, Clifford Geertz, Roger M. Keesing, Paul A. Roth, Robert A. Rubinstein and Elvi Whittaker 1990

            Article Background

          4. Introduction: Partial Truths - James Clifford 1986

            Chapter Background influential text from an influential volume – essential general reading

    4. WEEK 2 21 items
      1. Monday 2 October: Research Design: Cases, Comparisons, Scales, Models 12 items
        1. Although it is a truism that the realities of fieldwork can never be perfectly be anticipated, it would be problematic to conclude from this that writing a research proposals is a waste of time. To avoid becoming mere producers of "quaint stories from strange places" (Hastrup), becoming skilled in designing research projects and formulating research questions is an important first step.

        2. Seminar Readings: 2 items
          1. How facts travel: The model systems of sociology - Michael Guggenheim, Monika Krause 2012

            Article Essential

        3. Recommended Readings 9 items
          1. Case and Situation Analysis - J. Clyde Mitchell 2006

            Chapter Background

          2. Analytic Perspectives - Paul Atkinson 2015

            Chapter Background bit simplistic, but useful

          3. Grounded Theory in Ethnography - Kathy Charmaz, Mitchell Richard 2001

            Chapter Background concise and clear discussion

          4. 'Prologue' and 'Introduction' - Michael Burawoy 2009

            Chapter Background easy read, biographical, informative

          5. Comparison as Critique - Mathijs Pelkmans, Walker Harry 2017

            Article Background Unpublished paper

          6. Nervous Conditions - Allaine Cerwonka 2007

            Chapter Background comprehensive think piece

          7. Research Design: Problems, Cases, and Samples - Martyn Hammersley, Paul Atkinson 2007

            Chapter Background very practical approach

          8. The Ethnographic Research Cycle - James Spradley 2005

            Chapter Background basic useful stuff

      2. Friday 6 October: Entering the Field, with a presentation by Dr. Harry Walker 9 items

          An entire term could be filled with literature on the fieldwork experience. We'll discuss entering the field, impression management, the role played by the fieldworker's predispositions, personality, and background, as well as various kinds of relationships with interlocutors. We will read a couple of pieces to start a discussion of how to deal with these issues, and how to potentially turn the involved difficulties into analytic opportunities.

        2. Seminar Readings 2 items
          1. 'Access' and 'Field Relations' - Martyn Hammersley, Paul Atkinson 2007

            Chapter Essential “Access”, and “Field Relations,” pp. 41-96.

        3. Recommended Readings (read one): 6 items
          1. Fieldwork that failed - Linda Kent 2000

            Chapter Background more funny than profound - The Library is unable to provide an electronic copy of an extract from this book, due to copyright restrictions placed on it by the publisher.

          2. The Fieldwork Experience - Nicola Goward 1984

            Chapter Background

          3. Behind Many Masks: Ethnography and Impression Management - Gerald Berreman 2012

            Chapter Background “Behind Many Masks: Ethnography and Impression Management,” pp. 153-74. (good reflexive examples)

          4. A Woman Going Native - Hortense Powdermaker 2012

            Chapter Background or chapters from the original: Powdermaker, H. 1966. Stranger and Friend. Great classic

          5. Where have all the tales of fieldwork gone? - Marcus, George E. 2006

            Article Background asks a good question

          6. Reflections on fieldwork in Morocco - Paul Rabinow 1977

            Book Background great book

    5. WEEK 3 16 items
      1. Monday 9 October: Observation and Description 10 items

          Participant Observation may be at the core of the anthropological enterprise, but what does it actually involve? How do participation and observation relate to each other? What are the procedures through which participant observation gives us the confidence to make claims about lived reality? This seminar teases out various techniques such as explicit awareness, focus shifting, and introspection, to then zoom in on the topic of description. But of all the possible things that we can describe and thus observe, what is it that we are looking for? 

        2. Seminar Readings: 3 items
          1. Doing Participant Observation: Becoming an Observer - Kathleen Musante DeWalt, Billie R. DeWalt 2011

            Chapter Essential

          2. Place - Kirin Narayan

            Chapter Essential

          3. Participant observation - James P. Spradley 1980

            Chapter Essential Especially pp. 53-84

        3. Recommended Readings: 6 items
          1. Interaction and the Ceremonial Order - Paul Atkinson 2015

            Chapter Essential The Library is unable to provide an electronic copy of an extract from this book, due to copyright restrictions placed on it by the publisher.

          2. The ax fight - Timothy Asch, Paul Bugos, Napoleon A. Chagnon 1975

            Audio-visual document Background eye opener

          3. ‘Why must I wait?’ The performance of legitimacy in a hospital emergency department - Alexandra Hillman 2014

            Article Background concrete display of how observation can produce good results

          4. “The bridge”: Analysis of a social situation in Zululand’ - M. Gluckman 2002

            Chapter Background classic on observing events

          5. 12. Participant Observation - Russell Bernard 2006

            Chapter Background systematic overview

          6. Face Engagements - Erving Goffman 1963

            Chapter Background thinking about interaction

      2. Friday 13 October: Fieldnotes, guest seminar co-led by Valentina Zagaria and Michael W. Scott 6 items
        1. What are fieldnotes? How do we make, organize, and store fieldnotes? Can we rely on headnotes? In this session we will consider such issues as when to write notes, using scratch notes, the problems of relying on headnotes, and ways to make your fieldnotes accessible through indexing. Valentina and Michael will talk about  their own different fieldnote practices and experiences. In addition to discussing personal reflections on the practicalities of taking fieldnotes, we will also consider more theoretical issues concerning the status we give to fieldnotes as 'data'.

        2. Seminar readings 1 item
        3. Recommended Readings (read one) 2 items
          1. Fieldnotes: the making of anthropology 1990

            Book Background Of particular interest are the chapters by Jean E. Jackson, James Clifford, Rena Lederman, Roger Sanjek and Simon Ottenberg (plus accompanying illustrations). Copies of the book are available in the Course Collection and the Seligman Library.

          2. Participant Observation and Fieldnotes. - Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz, Linda L. Shaw 2007

            Chapter Background

        4. Fieldnotes online 2 items
          1. You might look at how earlier generations of ethnographers took notes in the field.  You can view fieldnotes made by the likes of Bronislaw Malinowski, Raymond Firth, Max Gluckman, Victor Turner, and Margaret Mead if you search for 'Anthropological Fieldwork Online' in the LSE's library catalogue and click through for online access to the fieldnotes of your choice.

    6. WEEK 4 19 items
      1. Monday 16 October: 2-4pm!! “Field Relations and Ethics.” Guest seminar by Deborah James 10 items
        1. While there are general ethical matters to which most of us subscribe, from not exploiting one's informants to the honesty of one's claims, ethical questions are often far less clear-cut than one might expect. The issues often come to the fore when we are faced with unexpected situations, where we have to make decisions as to where to draw the line between scholarly work and personal views. For example, although you may not be expecting to work in a frontline situation, violence and crime in the field might force you to make decisions about your informants' confidentiality and your own safety versus those you are working with.


          Read two or more of the readings, then write no more than two sides on ethical problems which you are likely encounter in your fieldwork and how you would go about dealing with these.  Consider, in doing so, the strengths and weaknesses of the ASA guidelines.  Circulate your piece to your fellow students and me for discussion no later than the Wednesday afternoon before the seminar.

        2. Seminar reading: 2 items
          1. Ethical guidelines - Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and the Commonwealth

            Document Essential

        3. Recommended readings (read two): 7 items
          1. Cultivating development: an ethnography of aid policy and practice - David Mosse 2004

            Book Background Flip through book to get to the essence of its ethical dilemmas.

          2. OR

      2. Friday 20 October: Sensorial Ethnography 9 items

          There is no better way to introduce this seminar than with the following quote from Paul Stoller: "Anthropologists who have lost their senses write ethnographies that are often disconnected from the worlds they seek to portray. For most anthropologists, tasteless theories are more important than the savory sauces of ethnographic life. That they have lost the smells, sounds, and tastes of the places they study is unfortunate for them, for their subjects, and for the discipline itself." We will discuss how renewed attention to the senses can do better justice to the richness of lived experience. 

        2. Seminar Readings: 2 items
        3. Recommended Readings (read at least one): 6 items
          1. The Taste of Ethnographic Things - Cheryl Olkes, Paul Stoller 2012

            Chapter Background good research example

    7. WEEK 5 8 items
      1. Monday 24 October: Asking Questions … and Learning to Listen 7 items

          Ethnographic or open interview, semi-structured interview, focused interview, cultural interview, topical interview – these are some of terms used to characterize the various discursive interactions between ethnographer and research participants. In this session we will discuss and practice specific interview techniques such as probing, follow-up questions, cross-checking, and keeping silent. We will also review the dis/advantages of different models for structuring interviews – such as the 'river' and the 'tree-and-branch' model. Finally but fundamentally: what is a question and what is the result of asking questions? Not unimportantly, what do we do with "silence"?

        2. Seminar Readings: 2 items
        3. Recommended Readings (read one): 4 items
          1. The ethnographic interview - James P. Spradley c1979

            Book Background Especially pp. 55-68.

          2. Interviewing I: Unstructured and semistructured - Russell Bernard 2011

            Chapter Background “Ch. 8 “Interviewing I: Unstructured and semistructured,” pp. 156-86

      2. Friday 27 October: Special Seminar titled “If Only I had been Told…” 1 item
        1. The content of this seminar is not known yet. Four to six post-fieldwork students will be invited to share with you some of their fieldwork revelations. They will all be asked to reflect on their own experiences, and to talk for ten minutes each about something they had not expected, wished they had been told before, felt euphoric about, or regretted to have done. It will be an excellent opportunity to discuss your own concerns with a panel of field experts, and also to discuss with them issues related to supervision.

    8. WEEK 6: No seminars 0 items
    9. WEEK 7 18 items
      1. Monday 6 November: Stories and narratives 12 items
        1. What do people convey through the stories they tell? Listening to what people have to say, without imposing categories through questions, can be a powerful method for understanding how people experience the world and their place in it. Narrative analysis, as informed by pragmatist philosophy, offers useful perspectives for analyzing the myths, tropes and models through which people perceive (and create) reality.

        2. Seminar Reading: 3 items
        3. Recommended Readings: 8 items
          1. Narrative analysis - Catherine Kohler Riessman 1993

            Book Background

          2. Myths in Life Stories - Jean Peneff 1991

            Chapter Background

          3. Person - Kirin Narayan 2012

            Chapter Background

          4. Worker in the cane: a Puerto Rican life history - Sidney Wilfred Mintz 1960

            Book Background Especially pp. 27-34 and 253-270

      2. Friday 10 November: Questionnaires 6 items

          Questionnaires are mostly associated with sociologists, but many anthropologists make use of them at some point: as a way to collect certain information quickly; to obtain comparable data; or to assess representativeness of a case. A questionnaire or survey can be a powerful (sometimes the only) tool to achieve these aims, but unfortunately most anthropologists lack the skills to design and administer questionnaires successfully, with the result that their efforts often go to waste. Without having the pretension of producing instant professional surveyors, this session will help you to make the most out of what many end up doing anyway. Issues of sampling, scaling, and responsivity will be discussed and applied.

        2. Seminar Readings: 1 item
          1. 9. Interviewing II: Questionnaires - Russell Bernard 2011

            Chapter Essential “9. Interviewing II: Questionnaires,” pp. 187-222.

        3. Recommended readings: 4 items
          1. On Quantification in Social Anthropology - J. Clyde Mitchell 1966

            Chapter Background

    10. Week 8 13 items
      1. Monday 13 November: Systematizing Visual and Verbal Data 10 items

          How do we gain systematic insight into how people perceive, categorize, and order the world? Cognitive mapping techniques are designed to systematically explore people's knowledge of cultural domains, their way of ordering them, and the epistemic and affective connotations of the elements in such domains. While traditionally applied to discover the "ethno-taxonomies" of the natural world, the technique can be fruitfully applied to reveal the ideas people have about food and meals, about the moral dimensions of "corruption," or even about the people in a company. A specialized branch of cognitive mapping is ethnographic decision modelling, used to study how people make concrete (usually either/or) decisions, an application with obvious policy value.

        2. Seminar readings: 3 items
        3. Recommended Readings: 6 items
          1. Ethnographic decision tree modeling - Christina H. Gladwin 1989

            Book Background

          2. Participant observation - James P. Spradley c1980

            Book  pp. 85-154

          3. Chapter 10: Analyzing Field Notes - Kathleen Musante DeWalt, Billie R. DeWalt 2011

            Chapter  useful in terms of thinking about analysis

      2. Friday 17 November: Experiments, by Prof. Rita Astuti 3 items
        1. In this session, we will discuss the use of experimental methods borrowed from psychology, looking at the way I have used them to complement my fieldwork in Madagascar. I will give a short presentation to kick off the discussion, but if you have time, read the two recommended papers. The first one tells the story of my first collaboration with psychologists and what I gained from it; the second one is an illustration of how complicated it is to transfer experimental tools across cultural/social contexts – a fact that you might not find surprising, but which is still worth thinking about.

        2. Readings 2 items
          1. Integrating methodologies - Rita Astuti 2017 (unpublished manuscript)


    11. WEEK 9 34 items
      1. Monday 20 November: Studying Documents and Artefacts 6 items

          !! Second research report deadline!!


          The study of things has become central to the discipline. In this seminar we will review a number of approaches to the study of artefacts and documents in ethnographic research projects. Moving beyond simplistic content analysis, we will examine the value of paying attention to the conceptualization, production, circulation, consumption, (im)materiality and agency of artefacts.


          In preparation, study and reflect on one of more objects, artefacts etc. in your London research project (assigned presentations).


        2. Seminar readings: 1 item
          1. Ethnography and Material Culture - Christopher Tilley 2001

            Chapter Essential

        3. Recommended readings (read two): 4 items
          1. Aesthetics, Artefacts and Technique - Paul Atkinson 2015

            Chapter Background

          2. Introduction: Thinking through things - Amiria J. M. Henare, Martin Holbraad, Sari Wastell 2007

            Chapter Background

          3. Introduction: In Response - Annelise Riles

            Chapter Background The Library is unable to provide an electronic copy of an extract from this book, due to copyright restrictions placed on it by the publisher.

      2. Friday 24 November: Timescapes in the Field. by prof. Laura Bear 28 items
        1. Anthropologists have often given attention to the historical formation of their fieldsites. They have often, too, focussed on their informant's orientations towards the past or historicity. The journal Anthropology and History has many examples of this interesting work. In recent years following the inspiration of Alfred Gell and Nancy Munn this pursuit of the past has turned into an exploration of how concepts of the past, present and future are formed in lived time-scapes. In this session we will explore how you might encounter time and time-scapes in the field.


          Before the session please read two to three of the following (making sure that you read at least one piece that addresses time ethnographically). You can also carry out an exercise of time-scape mapping for your own routine as a PhD student. What ethics, techniques and epistemes of time are you in relation to, and how might you heuristically bound the time-scape you are part of? You can also do this for your fieldsite-what timescape might you encounter there and how might it be important for your research questions to explore this?


          In the seminar I will give a short talk about how I, and how you, might encounter time in the field. Then we will discuss the readings and the time-mapping exercises.

        2. Key Reading 1 item
          1. Time as Technique - Laura Bear 2016

            Article Essential

        3. Choose 1 or 2 of the following ethnographic articles as relevant to your research 6 items
        4. Further Readings 20 items
          1. Saigon's edge: on the margins of Ho Chi Minh city - Erik Harms 2011

            Book Background

          2. When the Future Decides - Jennifer Johnson‐Hanks 2005

            Article Background

    12. WEEK 10: Networks and Cases 19 items
      1. Monday 27 November: Thinking with (Actor) Networks 10 items
        1. Even when not studied systematically, "networks" are often at center of anthropological analysis. Indeed, people are understood to be part of kinship networks, to rely on brokers and "friends of friends" (Boissevain) to get things done. Moreover, they need to "cut the network" (Strathern) in order to create order of chaos. In this seminar we will examine how network approaches can help us to conceptualize our research, and how we might go about collecting and processing data for a conventional network analysis as well as an actor-network-theory approach.

        2. Seminar reading: 2 items
          1. Thinking with Networks - Ulf Hannerz 1980

            Chapter Essential

        3. Recommended reading: 7 items
          1. Cutting the Network - Marilyn Strathern 1996

            Article Background

          2. Genealogies - J.A. Barnes 1967

            Chapter Background Barnes, J.A. “Genealogies,”

      2. Friday 1 December: Virtual Ethnography, including presentations by post-fieldwork students 9 items
        1. This session returns to some of the discussions we had in week one and two with regards to the relationship between data, evidence and claims, and on units of analyses in research designs. This time, however, we discuss these issues with a particular eye on how to integrate diverse sets of data in analysis and writing. Looking specifically at virtual ethnography, we ask how to make optimal use of virtual data in projects that are rooted in "traditional fieldwork./"

        2. Recommended readings on virtual ethnography 4 items
          1. Ethnography and virtual worlds: a handbook of method - Tom Boellstorff 2012


          2. Ethnography for the Internet: embedded, embodied and everyday - Christine Hine 2015


          3. Ethnographic Research in a Cyber Era - Hallett, Ronald E ; Barber, Kristen 2014


          4. Netnography: doing ethnographic research online - Robert V. Kozinets 2010


        3. Recommended readings on linking data and theory 4 items
          1. Linking data - Nigel Fielding, Jane L. Fielding 1986


    13. WEEK 11 9 items
      1. Monday 4 December: Writing ethnography 9 items

          Last week we already started discussing the ways in which different kinds of data are incorporated in an ethnographic text. In this session we will focus on issues of argumentation, composition and representation, as well as on the more practical aspects of writing.


        2. Recommended readings: 8 items
          1. Representations - Paul Atkinson 2015

            Chapter Background

          2. Writing an Ethnography - James Spradley 1979

            Chapter Background

          3. 10. Writing Your Report - David Silverman 2006

            Chapter Background

          4. Ethnography after Postmodernism - Jonathan Spencer 2007

            Chapter Background

          5. On the Writing of Ethnography - Vincent Crapanzano 1977

            Article Background

          6. On ethnographic authority - James Clifford 1983

            Chapter Background focused on writing, this piece also helps to think about data collection

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