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Course 2. The Essentials of Ethnography



José Mapril

PhD in Anthropology (2008), ICS, University of Lisbon. Researcher, CRIA, and Assistant Professor, NOVA FCSH

Research interests: Migration; Transnationalism; Islam; Subjectivities; South Asia; Bangladesh



Raquel Carvalheira

PhD in Anthropology (2015), ICS, University of Lisbon. Pos-Doc researcher at CRIA - NOVA FCSH

Research interests: Gender; Islam; Morocco; Family Studies; Ethnography


Ambra Formenti

PhD in Anthropology (2014), ICS, University of Lisbon. Pos-Doc researcher at CRIA - NOVA FCSH

Research interests: Migration; Christianity; Guinea-Bissau; Portugal; Collaborative Ethnography


Course Outline


This course aims to introduce participants to ethnographic methodology and its main tools: participant observation, fieldwork, ethnographic interview, life and family histories. Ethical issues, the making and management of field-notes and diaries will also be focused. Sessions will have a lecture format but students’ participation is strongly encouraged.

This course includes a discussion with the students about how to incorporate or ameliorate the use of ethnography on their personal research projects. Participants are expected to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the history, main advantages and pitfalls of these methods, in order to successfully apply them.


Useful applications

The course aims to engage participants in practical experiences of ethnography. Participants will gain the knowledge and skills to begin to apply relevant qualitative empirical methods based on ethnography.

The workshop will provide not only the basic instruments to produce a high-quality research product, but also a better understanding of the application and interpretation of these methods.


Specific requirements to attend the course

No specific requirements are necessary to attend the course.


Syllabus and day-to-day schedule

The first session will provide an introduction to the variety of instruments of qualitative methodologies used in anthropological research.

The second session will be centered on fieldwork. The session will introduce the students to the makings of anthropology: field notes, ethnographic interview, life and family histories.

The third session will introduce the major ethical issues raised by ethnography, with a focus on collaborative ethnography; political and gender issues.

The fourth session is dedicated to discuss how ethnography can be applied to the students' research projects, addressing the questions examined during the course.


Day 1: Introduction to anthropological research methods: ethnography as intersubjectivity or mutuality?

2018/01/29, 2pm-5pm, Room: Multiusos 1 | 1th floor | ID Building

Readings: Stocking Jr. (1992); Pina-Cabral (2013).


Day 2: Introduction to the makings of anthropology: the field today; fieldnotes: meanings and practices; life and family histories; ethnographic interview.

2018/01/30, 2pm-5pm, Room: Multiusos 2 | 4th floor | ID Building

Readings: Amit (2000); Campbell; Lassiter (2015); Madden (2012); Smith; Staples (2015); Spradley (1979); Pina-Cabral and Lima (2005).


Day 3: Ethical issues in ethnography; collaborative ethnography; political and gender issues.

2018/01/31, 2pm-5pm, Room: Multiusos 2 | 4th floor | ID Building

Readings: Lassiter (2005); Mosse (2006); Crewe (2016).


Day 4: Discussion about the uses of ethnography in individual research projects.

2018/02/01, 2pm-5pm, Room: Multiusos 2 | 4th floor | ID Building



A three-pages essay about one of themes of the course and its relation/importance to individual PhD research projects. The deadline is February 13.



2 (for students having successfully made the assessment).



AMIT, V. (eds.), 2000, Constructing the field, Ethnographic Fieldwork in the Contemporary World, London, New York. Routledge, pp. 1-18**

CAMPBELL, E., Lassiter, L., 2015, Doing Ethnography Today, USA, UK, Wiley Blackwell, pp. 66-71**

CREWE, E. 2016, “Ethnography of Parliament: Finding Culture and Politics Entangled in the Commons and the Lords”, Parliamentary Affairs, Volume 70, Issue 1, 1 January 2017, pp. 155–172**

LANGNESS, L.L. and Frank, G. 1995, Lives: An Anthropological Approach to Biography, Novato, Chandler and Sharp Publishers, pp. 32-60**

LASSITER L., 2005, “Collaborative Ethnography and Public Anthropology”, Current Anthropology, Vol. 46, No. 1 (February), pp. 83-106*

MADDEN, R., 2012, Being Ethnographic. A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Ethnography, Great Britain, Sage, pp. 32-34***

MOSSE, D., 2006. “Anti-social anthropology? Objectivity, objection, and the ethnography of public policy and professional communities”. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 12, pp. 935-956**

PINA-CABRAL, J., 2013, “The two faces of mutuality: Contemporary themes in anthropology”. Anthropological Quarterly 86.1, pp. 257-275*

PINA-CABRAL, J., and Antónia Pedroso de Lima. “Como fazer uma história da família: um exercício de contextualização social”, Etnográfica 9.2*

SMITH, K.; Staples, J., 2015, “Introduction: The Interview as Analytical Category” in Smith et al, Extraordinary encounters. Authenticity and the Interview, New York, Oxford, Berghahn Books, pp. 1-18**

SPRADLEY, J. 1979. Ethnographic Interview. Belmont: Wadsworth, pp. 461-474***

STOCKING JR., George W. 1992. “The Ethnographer’s Magic. Fieldwork in British Anthropology from Tylor to Malinowski”. In The Ethnographer’s Magic and other Essays in the History of Anthropology, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, pp. 12-59.**


(*) Available online

(**) Provided by the instructor

(***) Available at NOVA FCSH library

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