Ethnography and Field Methods
2 credits – mandatory course
Prof. Ju Li / Vlad Naumescu
This course, which is geared for students preparing for a first encounter with ethnographic fieldwork as well as for those who have already had some experience in this medium of inquiry, provides an introduction to some of the principal methods for conducting field research in anthropology and in neighboring disciplines. It offers a general preface to what fieldwork is, deals with entry to the field, participant-observation, keeping a field diary and analyzing it, the use of audio-visual materials, and the first stages of constructing texts premised on ethnographic research. Constructed as an interactive process, the course combines more formal lecturing with hands-on field experience on the part of course participants.
Course requirements and assessment
- Attendance + active participation in class, based on reading of the course materials and discussion of ongoing fieldwork and exercises (10%)
- An ethnographic project in Budapest designed and carried out in teams of two or three, comprising of the following elements:
-A written ethnographic account of up to 3,000 words, co-authored jointly by the team (40% of course grade)
-Presentation in class by the team of their work in progress (20% of course grade)
-Individual ethnographic diary with weekly field entries (30% of course grade)
At the end of the semester, students will:
1) be fluent in the key concepts and issues used in designing ethnographic fieldwork, and be able to use them properly in their own attempts to marry research questions with poignant, doable research work programs.
2) be reflexive and pragmatic about procedures associated with entering the ethnographic field, establishing balanced, useful and effective contacts with gate-keepers, informants and knowledge brokers in the field, and have a sense of how versions of their own identity as researchers are produced and circulated within the community.
3) be familiar with the importance of and techniques used in keeping a detailed and faithful ethnographic diary, annotating it and reading and re-reading it in due course.
4) be familiar with the key distinction between formal and informal interviews, and be proficient, comfortable and confident in their ability to design, carry out and analyze open, semi structured and structured interviews.
5) be familiar with a variety of participant observation techniques, with the relative advantages and disadvantages each has.
6) be able to pragmatically and reflexively extract qualified data and begin constructing arguments based on data gleaned using these techniques.
Weeks 1-9 will each feature an introduction followed by discussion and occasionally exercises and illustrative demonstrations on particular ethnographic methods. Starting from week 4, we will allocate time during the sessions to reports by various teams about the progress of their ethnographic projects. Weeks 10-12 will be dedicated to group presentations of your ethnographic projects.