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This course introduces students to the practice and politics of ethnography, broadly defined as the study and representation of people, culture, and society. We begin the semester by looking at the history of ethnographic methodologies in anthropology and sociology, and examining how ethnography can be decolonized. We then read several examples of ethnographic research related to marginalized or minority groups in the U.S. — such as undocumented migrants from Latin America, formerly unsheltered Black girls, or Diné fighting resource extraction on the reservation — along with articles that illuminate issues of power, observation, consent, and representation in ethnographic research. Through readings, discussion, and engagement in ethnographic exercises, students will gain familiarity with the different phases or components of conducting ethnographic research, while also considering different styles of ethnographic production, including creative work. While this course is designed to look specifically at ethnographic directions that intersect with the interdisciplinary field of American Studies, it is open to any student interested in exploring many of the pressing social issues of our time (such as mass incarceration, refugee resettlement, and drug addiction); committed to thinking critically about how to study these problems; and creating communities of care and solidarity for fighting, and quite possibly, solving them.
Format: seminar; This course will be conducted remotely. International students should contact the professor by email if interested.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
Weekly: Average 50 pages of reading; submit 200-300-word responses to readings and a 75-100-word discussion question; participate in synchronous class discussions. Three free passes given on these assignments. Three times per semester: Short ethnographic research assignments, such as conducting (socially distant) observation or an interview; coding a transcript; or writing a mini-research proposal. Final: 1) a 5-page scholarly book review of one single-authored ethnographic work. OR 2) a 5-page scholarly blog post about a particular issue in ethnography.
Enrollment preferences if over enrolled: AMST majors, students seeking methods courses
Difference, Power, and Equity
This course covers a range of ethnographic studies of people and cultures around the world, with particular attention to scholarship in which power relations and structural analysis are central. Students are asked to discover how scholars use ethnographic methods to account for differences within and between communities.
AMST Space and Place Electives