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Doing Ethnography


Students who have been admitted to ‘Visual Ethnography as a Method’ are likely to share a dedicated seminar group. If so, the readings for this group will be adjusted 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. (See


This course aims to prepare MA students for the practical and epistemological complexities of conducting ethnographic fieldwork. The course centers on three-hour tutorials. In these tutorials issues related to epistemology, ethics and fieldwork practice will be discussed by means of ethnographic exercises in which students link literature and in-class discussions to their individual fieldwork topics. Emphasis will be given to formulating the main research questions, operationalization, methodology, ethics and the organization of each student’s fieldwork. Consideration will also be given to fieldwork identities, health care, and academic ‘savoir faire’ needed to write a good research proposal. The course is intended to make students aware of the epistemological dimension of fieldwork practice, in framing the student’s personal research interests, skills, and possibilities, and to help her or him to discuss these with their individual thesis supervisor. The course intends to guide students in the writing of their research proposal (in which they are primarily coached by their individual supervisor).

Course Objectives

  1. Helping the MA student to systematically formulate the questions that are central to their MA research, positioned in relation to relevant academic debates.
    1. Providing practical preparations for the complexities of fieldwork, given the operationalization of research questions.



Location: Pieter de la Court Building, Wassenaarseweg 52, Leiden

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 be through 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 on 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. These grades count proportionally towards the final grade for the course (80% of the final grade). Participation is class counts for 20% of the final grade. Not submitting an assignment automatically implies ‘failure’ for that assignment. Not submitting an assignment (on time) twice, results in exclusion from the course. Only submitted and completed assignments can be redone, up to a maximum of two assignments for the entire course (blank papers are not accepted). Assignments are preferably submitted as Word document.
Presence is obligatory for all classes, from the start of the course. Students who are not present at the first lecture will not be allowed to participate.


Students are required to register for this course on Blackboard but do not need to register on uSis. (Registration for the exam in uSis is not required since there is no classical examination.)


Blackboard will be used to make information and assignments available. Blackboard module for this course will be available for registration by the end of August.

Reading list

Robben, Antonius C.G.M., and Jeffrey A. Sluka, eds. (2012) Ethnographic Fieldwork: An Anthropological Reader. Malden (MA): Blackwell.
A selection will be read, chapters will be specified for each meeting. The book will be available at bookshop “Atleest”, Kort Rapenburg 12a, Leiden. This book is also used for the course Large Issues, Small Places and copies of this book will be available for purchase at the university through student association Itiwana.

Additionally, a selection of relevant journal articles, which can downloaded through the university library or via Blackboard.

Contact information

Course coordinator: Dr. Jan Jansen