top of page


Grade Distribution​ and Due Dates


Seminar Participation

This should be obvious. Come to class having read the material for that day, ready to discuss that material or other material you have found on your own (see Media Reports below), and be a regular contributor to discussion and debate, and you will do well on this portion of your grade. Failure to do so may not only result in the lack of credit on this portion of your grade, but the rest of your grade in the course as well. In a word, seminar attendance and participation are paramount.


Completion of Reading and Technical Trainings

You will report on the completion of the readings on the syllabus as well as a series of technical trainings related to post-production, including editing photographs in Lightroom, editing audio in Audacity, cutting film in Final Cut (or Premier), color grading, etc. While entire courses are taught on any one of these tasks, you will gain a basic knowledge of each in this course in order to help you complete the major assignments. But his portion of your grade will reflect the extent to which you read and undertook these trainings.


Media Reports

Media here refers to any medium of ethnographic analysis or documentation (sound, photo, video). For each of these reports you will find an ethnographic medium (a photo essay, a soundscape, a film, etc.) and analyze how this medium portrays something about the human condition that written words alone could not capture. Be specific about how the medium reveals or portrays something about human experience because of the very affordances of the medium. Provide a brief synopsis (a paragraph at most) of the piece you analyzed (along with the complete citation for the piece and preferably a link or not about the archive where you found it), and then describe and critique (in approximately 400 words) the unique ways that the piece provides insight into some element of human experience through the interplay of medium and subject matter. 

You will turn these in for credit, but in any given week when these are due, you need to be prepared to share your synopsis and analysis of the piece in class.


Photo Essay

You will produce a photographic essay on some topic, reflecting your original ethnographic data collection or analysis of a secondary photographic archive. This photo essay must include a series of images, a summary of post-processing of photos (including justification of post-processing techniques—explicate your decision-making process), and a written précis of your analysis and insights that the images provide.

Parameters for the assignment include the following:

1. Whether you take original photographs, or use some archive (your own past photographs, an archive of historical photos, or some set of photographs that you obtained other than taking them yourself), you must include at least 4 images that you did capture and process in Lightroom. If you took original photos for this assignment, then please include an addendum that describes the following for at least 4 of the images in your essay: a) the exposure settings for the image and why you used these, b) the post-processing work you undertook with the image, and a description of why you made the decisions you did. If your photo essay is based on photographs not taken during this class, then please include an addendum with at least 4 original images (they need not be related to the topic of your essay), and a description of a) and b) above for those four images.

2. There is no maximum nor minimum for the number of images to include, nor a required ratio of number of words to include in the essay per image. As we saw in the examples we discussed in class, photographic essays vary on these fronts. You need to include enough substance to make an ethnographic point, but also not clutter the essay with so many images that it waters down the impact of the best, most meaningful images. Use the text to provide the context to the reader/viewer of your essay and help them understand the impact of your images and how they contribute to understanding the human condition.

3. You have several options in terms of how you arrange and submit your photographic essay. You can produce a PDF that you submit for the assignment (if exporting to PDF from another software package, do NOT compress the images), you can upload the essay to a photographically oriented website ( has a free period, allows a free version of its web design platform with several photographically oriented templates around which you could build your essay, etc.). You could also use Adobe Illustrator or InDesign to produce a photo essay with advanced tools to design the layout that you want to showcase them. Get creative, and consider the aesthetic impact as well as the anthropological uptake of your essay.

4. By the due date, you will upload a document with either the essay itself, or a URL or instructions as to where I can find the essay. Please submit it to Box by 11:59pm on the dat that it is due, and name the file accordingly: "Lastname_Firstname_Photographic_Essay.pdf"




You will produce an audio project that seeks to document and portray some significant sonic dimension of human experience. The point is to focus on sound in order to derive new insights into the dimension of human experience that you are analyzing. This must be based on original recordings collected, edited, and cut by you (exceptions can be considered). Cuts of interview or narrated content are allowable in the soundscape project. The project will also include a written precis of your analysis and insights that the soundscape provides.

Parameters for the assignment include the following:

1. The general length of the soundscape can be variable, but should be at least 4 minutes in length. You are welcome to include narration in the soundscape audio project itself, or add any narration and analysis in the accompanying document that you turn in with the soundscape project.

2. In total, you will turn in the following items: A) A final .wav file, containing the final export of your project; B) a copy of your project file in Audacity, Adobe Audition, or Logic Pro (it would be best to Zip/compress this file before uploading to Box); and C) a document that provides the analysis and context for the soundscape, as well as a brief description of the sound engineering that you undertook in the project.

4. By the due date, you will upload the aforementioned files, all of which need to include the words "Soundscape" and your name in the actual file names. Please submit it to Box by 11:59pm on the dat that it is due.



Ethnographic Short Film

The culminating assignment in this course will be to produce an ethnographic short film. This may include a mix of footage, at least some of which must be shot by you, the student. It is acceptable to include archival or secondary footage from other archives or sources, but you must also demonstrate your ability to capture original footage, and produce an ethnographic story about your content, from original capture to post-production. The project will also include a written precis of your analysis and insights that the short ethnographic film provides.

Parameters for the assignment include the following:

1. In general, these short films should be 5 to 10 minutes in length. They should embody some of the qualities that we discuss throughout this course that can be reasonably included in what (debatably, of course) constitutes an 'ethnographic film.'

2. Upload your film to your Youtube or Vimeo account, and assign it an unlisted link, and include that link in the write-up that you turn in with the film.

3. Your film should be accompanied by a brief write-up that includes the following elements: A) some general ethnographic context for the project (who, what, when, where, etc.) and the ethnographic significance of the project as you see it; B) some brief sense of your ethnographic mindset or decision-making process in the project; C) provide some sense of the technical decisions that you made (both during filming in the field and during post-production and editing), and how these decision articulate with your ethnographic objectives; D) provide the unlisted Youtube/Vimeo link in the write-up, along with any other instructions (as necessary, e.g., passwords, etc.) to view the film.



Note: Each of these projects needs to be accompanied by a written analysis that describes how the medium illuminates the ethnographic material it deals with, including a synopsis of the analysis that the medium provides (ethnographic insights, etc.). It is also advisable to do all three major projects (photo essay, soundscape, and short film) on a single cultural community or related phenomena. The reason for this, as we will discuss, is that ethnographic filmmaking requires a degree of cultural immersion and insight that sets it apart from other forms of documentary filmmaking, for example. 

bottom of page