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Doing Ethnography (February intake)


Admission requirements

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


This course aims to prepare the MA student for the practical and epistemological complexities of conducting as well as reporting fieldwork, with special attention to the fieldwork to be conducted as part of the research for the MA thesis.
The course will deal with topics such as fieldwork identities, health care, and the academic “savoir faire” needed to write a good research proposal. Each week there will be a three hour seminar session where these issues will be discussed in relation to weekly assignments. These sessions will explore related epistemological issues, ethics and fieldwork practice through 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, operationalisation, positioning, methodology and organization of each student’s fieldwork topic.
The main aim is to help students in developing an awareness of the epistemological dimension related to fieldwork practice, to help students frame their personal research interests, skills, and possibilities, and to help them to develop a research proposal together with their individual thesis supervisors, under whose supervision the research proposal 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


February 4th – March 28th, 2014
Tuesdays 13-15 h and Fridays 10-13 h
Location: Room 2A36, Pieter de la Court Building (Wassenaarseweg 52, Leiden)

Mode of instruction

Total: 5 ECTS = 140 study hours (sbu)

  • lectures ( 7 × 3 h = 31,5 sbu)

  • tutorials ( 7 × 2 h = 28 sbu)

  • seven weekly assignments, about 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 work group sessions. Only one assignment may be graded as insufficient.
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!
The course is graded “pass” or “not pass”.


Blackboard will be used to make information and assignments available. Blackboard module for this course wil be availavle for registration from mid January 2014.

Reading list

  • Robben, Antonius C.G.M. and Jeffrey A. Sluka, eds. (2007) Etnographic 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 the course Large Issues, Small Places.

  • Additionally, a selection of recent and relevant journal articles is electronically available through the university library.


Students are required to register for this course on Blackboard but do not need to register on uSis. See also Admission requirements above.


Prof. Dr. Peter Pels: tel +31 71 527 3458
Room 3A25, Pieter de la Court Building