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This module gives first-year students the opportunity to engage with anthropological research first-hand, and allows them to develop their own project on a topic of their choice! This may sound quite daunting, but do not worry: this module is intended for students who are complete beginners in anthropological research. Over the course of a semester, your teacher will guide you through the development of an ethnographic project, step-by-step. In doing so, we will also start developing the many varied skills that anthropologists need to possess if they wish to produce ethnographic texts that are sensitive and faithful to the worlds they describe.
What are these skills? Anthropologists are able to raise important questions, and write realistic project proposals that follow the highest ethical, methodological and theoretical standards. They are fluent in the use of “participant observation” and spend considerable time working closely with real people, using a range of methodologies to learn about their lives and life-worlds. Anthropologists can synthesize large bodies of literature. They are good at managing time and budgets. Needless to say, anthropologists are proficient at approaching people and relating to them. This includes the ability to engage with people’s everyday lives in a friendly and unthreatening manner, as well as the ability to keep intimate information organized and safe. Lastly, ethnographers know how to use social scientific methods to analyse data, while also being able to master a range of creative writing techniques to turn our field-experiences into beautiful literary pieces.
We are constantly surprised by the creativity of first-year students! We have had projects about tattoos and bodily inscription, ethnicity and multiculturalism, skateboarding and urban landscapes, trust and danger in cheerleading, climbing and martial arts, Dungeons and Dragons as collaborative world-building, sociality and friendship in digital worlds (e.g. Minecraft), gender-relations in fishing communities, marketing techniques in kick-starter projects, the materialisation of memory in historical re-enactment groups, human-animal relations at local zoos, magic amongst Wicca practitioners, and much, much more.