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SOC8049 : The Representation of Culture: Debates About Ethnography in Anthropology (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Anselma Gallinat
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0
European Credit Transfer System


The module explores the ethnographic tradition within social and cultural anthropology which, at its very core, concerns the question of how we can represent 'other' cultures and what implications there are to researching our 'own'. As such, debates about ethnography have shaped the discipline of anthropology itself, whilst these debates have also taken heed from developments in wider social-theoretical thinking such as post-modernism, interpretivism and concerns about subjectivity.

Through reading, students will familiarise themselves with ethnography as both a research methodology and a form of writing that is integral to the production of anthropological knowledge. They will learn about how developments in the social sciences have impacted upon this most qualitative and, arguably, subjective methodology. The module discusses the big debates that have questioned or re-asserted the value of ethnography as a way of understanding and representing 'other' cultures and, more recently, the anthropologist's own; and closes with the most recent trends in debates about ethnography.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module begins with the beginnings of ethnography, and then moves along some of the main debates that have shaped our thinking about this methodology and this way of representing culture: moving from Malinowski's work and his diary to postmodernism via the seminal volume Writing Culture; literary critiques of ethnographic texts; the acknowledgement of the individual versus macro-analysis of culture (Wikan vs Geertz); and discussions around 'anthropology at home' to more recent ideas of multivocality in representation and the ontological turn. Exploring these trends, the module moves from the Trobriand Islands and Bali, to the UK, Israel and East Germany. In session six, students will present an ethnography which they have chosen from a list of options.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials90:304:30Non synchronous, pre-recorded lecture material to help guide preparation
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities71:007:00Non-Synchronous, non-timetabled remote delivery
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading174:3074:30N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:3013:30timetabled in person seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk10:300:30introduction to the module and practicalities
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module is based on the reading and class discussion of ethnographic texts and critiques of ethnography. the texts must be read in detail in advance, which is supported through pre-recorded lecture material that provides background and questions to guide the reading. To help aid discussion in the in-person seminars each student will sign up to present key points from one of the readings - there'll be one presentation per session. These presentations are informal. Students will sign up for their chosen text and seminar in session one. This approach practices critical reading skills, presentation, argument and discussion, whilst introducing students to the particularities of ethnographic texts and debates in anthropology.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M1002500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essay asks students to discuss a particular trend or debate in the social sciences which had an impact on debates about ethnography. This tests learning aims by requiring students to develop a sustained argument that interrelates theoretical debates, methodology and text through the exploration of relevant case examples, ie ethnographies.

Reading Lists