EThnographic Methods


Ana Isabel Afonso

Assistant professor, Department of Anthropology, NOVA FCSH

Research interests: Applied Anthropology, Social Change, Methodology, Studies on Science, Technology and Society, Visual Anthropology


Raquel Carvalheira

PhD in Anthropology (2015), ICS, University of Lisbon. Post-Doc researcher at CRIA and Assistant Professor, FCSH/NOVA

Research interests: Gender; Islam; Morocco; Family Studies; Ethnography


  1. Objectives

This course aims to introduce participants to ethnographic methodology and its main tools: participant observation, fieldwork, ethnographic interview, life and family histories. Ethical issues, the making and management of field notes and diaries will also be focused. Sessions will have a lecture format, but students’ participation is strongly encouraged. This course includes a discussion with the students about how to incorporate or ameliorate the use of ethnography on their personal research projects. Participants are expected to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the history, main advantages and pitfalls of these methods, in order to successfully apply them.


  1. Useful applications

The course aims to engage participants in practical experiences of ethnography. Participants will gain the knowledge and skills to begin to apply relevant qualitative empirical methods based on ethnography. The workshop will provide not only the basic instruments to produce a high-quality research product, but also a better understanding of the application and interpretation of these methods.


  1. Specific requirements to attend the course

No specific requirements are necessary to attend the course


  1. Syllabus and day-to-day schedule

The first session will introduce the variety of instruments of qualitative methodologies used in anthropological research and its historical background. The relations between method and theory will be discussed. The second session discusses fieldwork’s practice. The session will introduce the students to the makings of anthropology: field notes, ethnographic interview, life and family histories. The third session will introduce the major ethical issues raised by ethnography. The fourth session proposes to discuss how to include an ethnographic lens to the students’ research projects. It addresses the questions examined during the course.


Day 1: Introduction to anthropological research methods

Readings: Bailey (1996), Amit (2000)


Day 2: Introduction to the makings of anthropology: the field today, fieldnotes, life and family histories, ethnographic interview and ethnographic writing.

Readings: Campbell & Lassiter (2015); Madden (2012); Smith & Staples (2015); Spradley (1979)


Day 3: Ethical issues in ethnography

Readings: Goolde (1986), Lassiter (2005); Mosse (2006); Pink (1998); Fine (1993)


Day 4: Discussion about the uses of ethnography in individual research projects


  1. Bibliography

Amit, V., 2000. «Introduction: Constructing the field». Constructing the field, Ethnographic Fieldwork in the Contemporary World. London, New York. Routledge, pp. 1-18

Bailey, C. A., 1996. A Guide to Field Research. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press

Campbell, E., Lassiter, L., 2015. Doing Ethnography Today. USA, UK, Wiley Blackwell, pp. 66-71

Goolde, Peggy, 1986. “Introduction”. In Peggy Golde (edt) Women in The Field: Anthropological experiences. Berkeley: University of California Press

Langness, L.L. and Frank, G. 1995, Lives: An Anthropological Approach to Biography, Novato, Chandler and Sharp Publishers, pp. 32-60

Lassiter L., 2005. “Collaborative Ethnography and Public Anthropology”, Current Anthropology, Vol. 46, No. 1 (February), pp. 83-106

Madden, R., 2012. Being Ethnographic. A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Ethnography, Great Britain, Sage, pp. 32-34

Mosse, D., 2006. “Anti-social anthropology? Objectivity, objection, and the ethnography of public policy and professional communities”. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 12, pp. 935-956

Pink, S., 1998. “The white ‘helpers’: Anthropologists, development workers and local imaginations”, Anthropology Today, Vol 14, No. 6, pp. 9-14.

Fine, G. A., 1993. “Ten Lies of Ethnography: Moral Dilemmas of Field Research”, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 267-294.

Smith, K.; Staples, J., 2015, “Introduction: The Interview as Analytical Category” in Smith et al, Extraordinary encounters. Authenticity and the Interview, New York, Oxford, Berghahn Books, pp. 1-18

Spradley, J. 1979. Ethnographic Interview. Belmont: Wadsworth, pp. 461-474

Stocking Jr., George W. 1992. “The Ethnographer’s Magic. Fieldwork in British Anthropology from Tylor to Malinowski”. In The Ethnographer’s Magic and other Essays in the History of Anthropology, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, pp. 12-59.


  1. Assessment

A three-page essay about one of themes of the course and its relation/importance to individual PhD research projects. The deadline is the 13 of February 2020.


  1. ECTS

2 ECTS (for students having successfully made the assessment).

N.B. – In order to have a presence certificate, an attendance >50%  is required.



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