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Module

POL8024 : Ethnographic Methods in the Political Field

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s):
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semesters
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0

Aims

POL 8024 Ethnographic Methods in the Political World aims to help postgraduate students:
• Build on their core knowledge of politics by investigating different research techniques used by political ethnographers, including such methods as participant observation, interviews and the use of the camera
• Use ethnography to access the political world, including the experiences of elected leaders and their political parties, the dynamic life of elections and law-making, and the impact of grassroots and global activism
• Apply this methodological approach to their own study of political life and culture so they experience conducting research as a political ethnographer

Outline Of Syllabus

An ongoing pandemic. Inequality and violence leading to social uprisings. Major elections changing the leadership of several of the world’s most powerful nations. This course reflects on this extraordinary time in global politics to ask: how can political ethnographers help us make sense of political outcomes, structures and cultures? POL 8024 Ethnographic Research in the Political Field will facilitate rich conversations about contemporary political and popular culture and prepare final-year undergraduate students and postgraduate students to confidently employ ethnographic methods in their dissertation research and beyond. In addition to providing on-demand lectures that compliment a range of advanced-level scholarly materials, postgraduate students will participate in rigorous debate about politics as examined by ethnographers and will build on their knowledge by conducting their own ethnographic research using written and visual materials.

Students enrolled on POL 8024 may explore topics such as (but not limited to):
• How does ethnography help us locate and explore the contemporary political world?
• Explore the ethnographic methods used by political researchers, including observation and participant observation, interviews and focus groups, and approaches using film, photography and sound
• Positionality and the relationship between researcher, the research subject and the research field
• “Doing” ethnographic fieldwork, including preparing a research plan, keeping a field diary, recruiting and interacting with informants, storing research data and preparing a field report
• The reflexive nature of ethnographic fieldwork and the ethical responsibilities of political researchers
• The growing role of cameras and smart phones in fieldwork, data analysis and presentation of findings
• How to communicate qualitative findings for academic and general audiences

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00Weekly on-demand lecture
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion212:0024:00Preparation and completion of two assessments
Guided Independent StudySkills practice28:0016:00Student-led short ethnographic fieldwork
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities112:0022:00Guided research and reading activities
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops112:0022:00Weekly PiP workshop
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1105:00105:00Independent engagement with course materials
Total200:00
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The online lectures, in-person workshops and assigned weekly readings will offer students the chance to explore and critique the use of ethnography in political research from a number of expert perspectives, including their own. Maintaining a balance of theory with first-hand practical experience, POL 8024 will rely heavily on the weekly workshops as a creative and collaborative space within which students learns from their lecturer and each other about the practicalities of conducting research in the modern political landscape. As a course that’s responsive to the dynamics of “the political” as a vast fieldsite, POL 8024 provides students with the practical experience needed to not only successfully carry out their dissertation projects but will offer a chance to sharpen a wide range of marketable skills like communicating with a varied audience, problem solving, working with contemporary technology and conducting research in our current political and social climate. Online materials will present a foundation to each week’s topic that the in-person sessions build on through in a skills-based workshop format. Students will be offered a chance to conduct their own short fieldwork project, an opportunity to work with digital camera, and to prepare assessments that reflect important stages of this qualitative research process.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M40Field diary, including field notes and preliminary analysis (2,000 words)
Essay1A60Photography essay using visual (20 or more photographs) and written text (2,000 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Postgraduate students will have two main assessments on this course – one which serves as a mid-point reflective piece that examines their fieldwork experiences and a second that builds on these notes by incorporating the camera as a means of both collecting data and presenting findings. Students will be required to reflect on their fieldwork experiences, in conversation with the concepts, and assigned and supplemental texts from the semester, and will receive feedback on their work to help prepare for their final assessment.

Reading Lists

Timetable