Not available in 2015/16
Anthropological Fieldwork Methods

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Michael W Scott, OLD 6.16


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Social Anthropology (Research). This course is not available as an outside option.

This course is for MSc Social Anthropology (Research) students preparing their detailed research proposal prior to embarking on fieldwork and other forms of empirical research.

Course content

The course aims to give you a thorough understanding of what is involved in carrying out ethnographic fieldwork, and what kinds of knowledge it can and cannot generate. It focuses both on the classic fieldwork methods used by anthropologists in the first half of the 20th century, and on more recent methodological developments and techniques that correspond to transformations in the nature of the social. It examines the realities of turning research ideas into realistic plans, in the context of your chosen area of fieldwork. The first half of the course deals with general ethnographic methods. These include participant observation; field notes and the organization of data; visual methods; ethics and anthropological 'codes of ethics'; interviews; written ethnography, ethnographic knowledge, and problems of representation; critical approaches to existing ethnographic texts; place, multi-sited ethnography, the local and the global; research into family, kinship and the genealogical method; archives and how to use documentary material; fieldwork methodology and the research proposal. In the second half of the course, students present drafts of their projects and think through associated methodological and ethical issues.


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students are required to write and present a paper in the LT.

Indicative reading

P Caplan (Ed), The Ethics of Anthropology Debates and Dilemmas (Routledge, 2003); M Banks and H Morphy (Eds), Rethinking visual anthropology (Yale UP, 1999); R Ellen (ed), Ethnographic Research: a guide to general conduct (Academic Press, 1985); A Gupta and J Ferguson (Eds), Culture, Power, Place: explorations in critical anthropology (Duke University Press, 1997); K Hastrup, 'Getting it right: knowledge and evidence in anthropology'. Anthropological Theory 4 (4): 455-72; (2004) M Jackson, Paths Towards a Clearing (Indiana UP 1989); L H Malkki and A Cerwonka, Improvising Theory: process and temporality in ethnographic fieldwork (Chicago, 2007); G Marcus, Ethnography Through Thick and Thin (Princeton, 1998); D Mosse, Cultivating development: an ethnography of aid policy and practice (London, 2005); K Narayan, 'How Native is a "Native" Anthropologist?' American Anthropologist, 95(3), 1993; P Steven Sangren, 'Rhetoric and the authority of ethnography'. Current Anthropology, 29(3), 405-435, 1988; R Sanjek (Ed), Fieldnotes: the Makings of Anthropology (Cornell, 1990); Bernard H Russell, Research Methods in Cultural Anthropology (Sage, 1990); N Scheper-Hughes, 'The Primacy of the Ethical. Propositions for a Militant Anthropology'. Current Anthropology 36(3), 409-420, 1995; ASA Ethical Guidelines


Students' progress is monitored throughout the course by the teachers responsible. The work undertaken for this course is expected to feed directly into the preparation of your Research Proposal (AN443): The formal examination of the Proposal constitutes the assessment of the course.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2014/15: 11

Average class size 2014/15: 5

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information