Ethnographic Research Design and Methods
Winter 2022: Tues / Thurs 9:30am-10:45am
The purpose of this course is to expose undergraduate students to different methods used to carry out social science research and to examine the aesthetics of good research design. Anthropology comprises one of the more interdisciplinary social sciences (though not without its own disciplinary biases, of course). Even beyond its four principal subfields -- archaeology, biological, linguistic, and cultural anthropology-- anthropologists engage social phenomena that are studied by researchers in all disciplines. Thus, the types of data and methods used by anthropologists span the gamut of possible methodologies. In this course, students will be introduced to the fundamentals of social science research by comparing the approaches of several different research philosophies while focusing on research design, data collection, the linking of theory and data, and the ethics of social science research.
The course will begin with a philosophical and epistemological discussion of social science research: What is research? What do we consider legitimate forms of knowledge in the social sciences in general and anthropology in particular? How do we know what we know ? What counts as data? What disciplinary divisions exist with regards to stances on these questions? How do discipline-specific ontologies lead to different research philosophies? We will also question disciplinary commitments to particular forms of knowing, including historical trends within anthropology. The instructor will advocate a model in which research questions drive methodological approaches, and not vice versa. This initial discussion will be followed by introductions to various methodologies and research designs, both specific (e.g., field experiments or narrative analysis) and general (e.g., ethnographic fieldwork). Weekly readings will provide a mix of background and explanation of methods/designs as well as concrete examples. Students are expected to dig behind the ethnographic texts that we read in this class in order to understand the logic of the research design employed by the authors. In some cases this research design will be explicit, but more often implicit. Students in this course will learn to both construct and scrutinize the logic of research design and empirically-rooted theoretical argumentation.
As many of you are preparing to conduct fieldwork for your BA thesis, it is expected that you will use the readings, lectures, and discussion throughout this course to design your own research project. The principal assignment in this course is to write a comprehensive research proposal that outlines your specific methods and research design, as they relate to the group and theoretical issues that you will be undertaking in your project. Smaller assignments throughout the course will lead up to this final proposal.
Books to Purchase
(other readings will be provided as PDFs)
Schulthies, Becky Lyn. 2021. Channeling Moroccanness: language and the media of sociality. New York: Fordham University Press. ISBN: 9780823289721
Eberhardt, Nancy. 2006. Imagining the course of life: self-transformation in a Shan Buddhist community. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press.
Books available digitally (through the library)
Cassaniti, Julia. 2015. Living Buddhism: mind, self, and emotion in a Thai community. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
The following reading schedule is subject to change.
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