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Visual Ethnographic Fieldwork


Please note: this course description is not fully up-to-date for the academic year 2023-2024. Updates will be published shortly.

Admission requirements

Only students admitted to the master’s programme Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology specialisation Visual Ethnography can take part in this course.

The Study Adviser grants permission to conduct field research once the following conditions are met:

  • The student's Research Proposal must receive a pass grade (6-10) from its individual supervisor. The assessment form should be sent to the Study Adviser

  • The individual supervisor must approve the language proficiency of the student, as applicable to the field research envisaged

  • The Ethics form has to be filled out completely and sent to the Study Adviser

  • A Letter of Liability has to be filled out completely and sent to the Study Adviser

  • In case of field research abroad, the student has to register in the Study Abroad portal (in uSis). In this portal, it is especially important to fill out the contact details on which you can be reached while abroad

Course Description

Students will conduct individual Visual Ethnographic Fieldwork from early January through mid-March, provided that the location of their choice is safe and not affected by armed conflict, and has been approved as such by the Institute of CADS. It is expected that students will establish independently the necessary contacts with local authorities and members of the research community, acquire research permission and affiliation, and arrange their own accommodation in the country of research. Supervision during the preparatory period is provided by the supervisor in Leiden. For research outside The Netherlands, the supervisor at Leiden will not visit the student in the field, so it is expected that students will be affiliated with an institute or person at the research location willing to take at least partial responsibility for the fieldwork conducted. Students will be expected to report regularly to the supervisor during the fieldwork, because they remain under the supervision of the supervisor in Leiden for the entire period of fieldwork, and while they process their data and write their master’s thesis.

The Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology has a limited number of semi-professional HD cameras available, including professional audio-sets. They may be loaned for field research after completion a skills-test and payment of a loan fee. This equipment is to be used during training tutorials and will be distributed to students for use during their fieldwork based upon an equipment request procedure. Specific equipment needs will be made in consultation with supervisors and the programme coordinator. If demand exceeds available resources, we will arrange for sharing of equipment. Students are responsible for the safety and care of any equipment in their possession and will be held liable for any preventable damage. Students should anticipate collecting between 25 to 30 hours of audiovisual recordings and must provide their own recording and storage media.

Students in the Visual Ethnography specialisation must attend the Field Preparations workshop during the first week in December and the Organizing, Analysis, & Editing workshop during the last two weeks in March. The workshops constitute the opening and closing phases of the three-month field research period. During this final phase, students focus on the analysis of audiovisual data after fieldwork, and its use for the kind of analyses that anthropologists wish to convey. Ethnographic fieldwork results in a great variety of data: written notes, photographs, audio recordings, and video recordings. The workshops will guide students on addressing these key questions: What are strategies to analyse these various sources? How can the collected audiovisual data be used to contribute to the communication of research findings? What ‘format’ is the material suited to? What are the affordances and limitations of making a linear film versus a more experimental, multimodal output? What will be the relationship between the audiovisual portion of the thesis and the written portion? How will these outputs address academic versus public concerns? How does the student intend to present them to the people depicted and related to the research? How should the output anticipate reactions by both intended and unintended audiences?

The workshops are supplemented by a series of online training modules available on the standalone programme website.

A list of research projects available to students is available on our website and is continually updated, although students can also follow their own ideas in choosing a topic.

Financial matters

Field research can be a costly endeavour for students, as it will usually involve travel and the cost of additional accommodation. These expenses are not covered by the tuition fee for the master’s programme.

To ease the financial strain various funds can be applied to for assistance:

  • Funds made available by our external partners within certain research projects.

  • Scholarships and grants offered by Leiden University.

  • Funds from the home country (in case of international students).

  • Also check the Dutch study grant/loan provider DUO for additional information.

If planning research outside The Netherlands, also check the university's website for other practical matters regarding studying abroad.


Fieldwork: January, February, and first half of March.
Editing: Second half of March.

Assessment method

During their master’s fieldwork students are expected to report regularly to their advisors and are responsible for submitting three mandatory multimodal Field Reports at approximately three-week intervals during it.

For the Organizing, Analysis, & Editing workshop, students must present an initial rough assemblage and series of carefully selected sequences in group feedback sessions. In summation, student should develop an editing schedule and output plan to be executed during the Thesis Seminar for Visual Ethnography course.

The fieldwork is rated a “V” (pass) or "ONV" (fail) based on performance in the research setting.


Visual Ethnography-coördinator Dr. Mark Westmoreland
Master's programme coördinator Dr. J.A.M.M. Jansen