Objectives (learning goals)
: after following this course the student has insight in:
- A range of methodological issues related to doing fieldwork on ritual, cultural and sociolinguistic interactional events. A range of ethical issues such as accessibility, transparency, representation and reflexivity.
: after following this course the student is able to:
- Prepare for and conduct ethnographic fieldwork activities, with a focus on participant observation and on-site interviews.
- Critically reflect, both verbally and in writing, on (his or her own) fieldwork activities in relation to the discussed methodological and ethical issues.
- Analyze data coming out of fieldwork activities in relation to relevant theoretical or conceptual issues on the basis of key incident analysis and of socio-culturally rooted discourse analysis.
- Report to the general public ethnographic-based research findings, focusing on the relevance of a scientific enquiry for the general public.
: For this course, students are expected to step into real-life situations to conduct their research. Ideally, these research experiences take place in settings that are highly unfamiliar in nature, forcing the student to constantly challenge both their own preconceptions about these specific social and cultural settings, as well as their own fundamental assumptions concerning normal and deviant behaviour.
Further, the course pushes students to embody and apply specific methodological tools that allow the student to turn it into unfamiliar territory instead. Paradoxically, in addition to being trained in assuming a research position characterized by epistemic vulnerability, the student also has to practice in dealing with the archontic power that comes from representing the stories and experiences of her or his research interlocutors, especially if these are in positions of social, cultural or economic vulnerability themselves.
Content of the course
This Research Skills course aims at acquiring hands-on experience with anthropological fieldwork methods in general and participant observation in particular. Thematically, the course has a special focus on doing fieldwork on cultural and sociolinguistic interactions. These events can range from traditional religious rites to office meetings or gallery openings and from multicultural street festivals to something like tweetups or instalments. For these events, attention is paid to the relationship between their online and offline dimensions, as well as to both the experiences of participants and those who manage the events in question. Students are given the opportunity to select their own event to do fieldwork on, preferably one related to their thesis subjects.
Introducing the empirical and qualitative research paradigm of ethnographic fieldwork, the course starts with a reflection on methodological issues related to doing fieldwork on ritual and cultural events, such as accessibility, transparency and representation. The lectures that follow focus on acquiring and applying the skills associated with such fieldwork. Specifically, this concerns preparing for and conducting, participant observation at the chosen event. The experience will also be acquired by doing spontaneous on-site interviews. Finally, attention is paid to how one moves from thinking about methodological issues and one’s fieldwork experiences to analysis and reporting.
Assessment of the course takes place based on a portfolio that brings together written assignments (60%), as well as quality of fieldwork (30%) and class participation (10%).