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Visual Ethnographic Fieldwork


Admission requirements

Students cannot start their field research unless the following conditions have been met:

  • Formal admission to and enrollment in the MSc Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology

  • Submission of the approved final research proposal

  • Submission of the approved budget

  • Submission of the completed declaration of liability

  • (if relevant) Proof of language proficiency (declaration by the supervisor)


Individual Visual Ethnographic Fieldwork may be conducted in conjunction with one of the institute’s sponsored Field Research & Training (FR&T) programmes or elsewhere in the world, provided that the location is safe and not afflicted by an armed conflict and if approved by the Institute of CA-DS. FR&T programmes provide individualized mentorship in the field and facilitates contacts with the local authorities, research permission and affiliation, and, in most cases, the accommodation of students in the research area. Individual fieldwork is arranged by students themselves. It is expected that the student will independently establish the necessary contacts with local authorities, acquire research permission and affiliation as well as accommodation in the country of research. Supervision during this preparatory period is provided by the supervisor in Leiden. It is expected that the student at location is affiliated with an institute or a person willing to take (partial) responsibility for the fieldwork conducted, because the supervisor in Leiden will not visit the student in the field. Therefore, during fieldwork, the student is expected to regularly report to the supervisor, because the student remains under the supervision of his/her supervisor in Leiden during the entire period of fieldwork, and during processing the data and writing the Master Thesis.
The Institute Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology has a limited number of high-end audiovisual sets available for field research after completing a skills-text and payment of a loan fee. Students a liable for the safety and care of any equipment in their possession. Students must provide their own recording and storage media. Students should anticipate collecting around 25 hours of audiovisual recordings, but should not exceed 30 hours.

Student in the Visual Ethnography specialisation must attend the Analysis & Editing workshop during the last two-weeks in March. This constitutes the last phase of the three-month field research period in order to organize the data produced during the previous 10 weeks.

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

Students are expected to regularly report to their advisor in the course of the MA fieldwork.

Financial matters

MA field research can be a costly endeavour for the student, as it will usually involve travel and the costs of additional accommodation. These expenses are not covered by the tuition fee for the MSc programme.

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

  • Within some of the specific research projects funds are made available by our external partners.

  • The Leiden University scholarship web-page. Most often the students of CA-DS acquire grants from the LUF and the LUSTRA but can also be sucessful in acquiring financial aid from smaller, private funds and trusts. Since much of the information about funds is available in Dutch language, foreign students might need assistance from their Dutch fellow-students when looking for relevant information, or address the resources from their country of origin.

  • Sub-letting your room in Leiden can also be a good source of income.

  • Also check the university's website for other practical matters regarding your travel abroad.


In the last month of VE-fieldwork students start editing their film material. In this period they focus on the analysis of audiovisual data after fieldwork, and its use, in one form or the other, for the kind of analyses that anthropologists want to convey. Ethnographic fieldwork results in a great variety of data: written notes, photographs, audio recordings and video recordings. What are strategies to analyze these various sources? How can the audiovisual data that has been collected be used, to contribute to the communication of research findings? What ‘formats’ is the material suited for, and given those limitations and possibilities, what choices do you make? If one is editing a video film, how can that film relate to the paper that you are writing as a part of your final project? How do readings of clips or edited films intended by you as a researcher relate to readings by the people researched, and to readings by the (other) intended and unintended audiences that may get to know the output of your ethnographic research? This course combines theory with hands on practice. During the tutorials students primarily work with the audiovisual data that they have collected during their Master fieldwork.


Fieldwork: January, February.
Editing: March.


Throughout the fieldwork three reports have to be written:
Report 1: Operationalisation in the field, to be submitted to the supervisor after 3 weeks after start of the fieldwork.
Report 2: Reflection on the fieldwork experience, to be submitted to the supervisor after 6 weeks after start of the fieldwork.
Report 3 (final): Preliminary Analysis/Interpretation of the data with a detailed loglist of all audiovisual materials and an output plan.

During the Visual Ethnography Analysis & Editing workshop students must present an initial rough assemblage and series of carefully selected sequences in group feedback sessions.

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


VE-coordinator Dr. Mark Westmoreland
Fieldwork coördinator Dr. Erik de Maaker