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Doing Ethnography


Students who have been admitted to ‘Visual Ethnography as a Method’ will share a dedicated seminar group. The readings for this group will be tailored to the specific methodological challenges that anthropological research using audiovisual means poses.

Admission requirements

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


This course aims to prepare the MA student for the practical and epistemological complexities of conducting as well as reporting fieldwork, with a special attention to the fieldwork to be conducted for the research for the MA thesis.
Two lectures will deal with topics such as fieldwork identities, health care, and academic ‘savoir faire’ needed to write a good research proposal. The other weeks, three hour working groups are scheduled. In these issues related to epistemological issues, ethics and fieldwork practice will be discussed, by means of ethnographic exercises in which students link literature and in-class discussions to their personal fieldwork topics. Specific attention will be paid to formulating central research questions, operationalization, positioning, methodology and organization of each student’s fieldwork topic.
The main aim is to help students in making them aware of the epistemological dimension related to fieldwork practice, in framing the student’s personal research interests, skills, and possibilities, and to help her or him to discuss these aspects with their individual thesis supervisors, under whose supervision the research proposal, too, will be written.

Course Objectives

  1. Helping the MA student systematically to formulate the central research question and to relate it to an academic debate
    1. Offering a practical preparation for the complexities of fieldwork when theoretical questions are operationalized


Wednesdays September 4th – October 30th, 2013


  • Group Jansen: time and location to be announced

  • Group De Maaker: time and location to be announced

  • Group Maeckelbergh: time and location to be announced

Mode of instruction

Total: 5 ECTS = 140 study hours (sbu):

  • Tutorials: 9×3 = 27 ‘real time hours’ = 54 sbu

  • Two workshops of two hours = 4 sbu

  • Nine weekly assignments: 6,000 words in total (= 80 sbu), using literature and ethnographic exercises.

Assesment method

Examination of the course will take place by weekly written assignments that connect the literature to the individual’s research plans, thus giving ample space for reflection on possibilities and impossibilities, on expectations and worries, on do’s and don’ts. The assignments will each week be discussed in the tutorials.

All assignments have to be completed and submitted in time; before Tuesday morning 9 a.m. (and not after). Since the assignments are discussed in the tutorial, your tutor needs Tuesday for reading the assignments, there is really no way around this deadline.

All assignments will be graded pass/insufficient. Eight out of nine assignments should eventually be graded as ‘pass’. Not submitting an assignment at all is an automatic failure for that assignment and will be marked as ‘insufficient’. Not submitting an assignment on time twice will result in exclusion from the course. Only submitted and done (empty paper is not accepted) assignments can be redone up to a maximum of two. Assignments are preferably submitted as Word document.

Presence is obligatory from the start of the course. Students who are not present at the first lecture will not be allowed to participate in this course.


Blackboard will be used to make information and assignments available. Blackboard module for this course wil be availavle for registration from teh end of August 2013.

Reading list

  • Robben, Antonius C.G.M., and Jeffrey A. Sluka, eds. (2007) Ethnographic Fieldwork: An Anthropological Reader. Malden, MA, Blackwell. (a selection will be read, chapters will be indicated for each meeting. The book is available at bookshop “Atleest”, Kort Rapenburg 12a, Leiden). This book is also used for Large Issues, Small Places and copies of this book will be available for purchase at at the university through Itiwana.

  • Additionally, a selection of relevant journal articles is electronically available through the university library or via Blackboard.


Students are required to register for this course on Blackboard but do not need to register on uSis.


Dr. Jan Jansen

Contact information

  • Dr. Jan Jansen (room 3A36, tel. 071-527 3996, e-mail )

  • Dr. Erik de Maaker (room 3A33, tel. 071-527 6612, e-mail )

  • Dr. Marianne Maeckelbergh (room 3A45, tel. 071-527 3433, e-mail )

  • Secretariat of the Institute CA-DS (room 3A19, tel. 071-527 3451, e-mail )