Fall 2019 - SA 301 D100

Contemporary Ethnography (A) (4)

Class Number: 3841

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Fri, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    SA 201W.



A consideration of key themes in contemporary anthropology. Addresses theoretical and methodological questions by examining the work of contemporary anthropologists conducting research in diverse locations around the world.


This course explores anthropology's efforts to communicate across boundaries of time, space, language, and culture.  It is an introduction to key ideas and concepts in anthropology via a study of the discipline's most distinctive contribution to the social sciences—ethnography.  Defined by one introductory anthropology textbook as "gathering information on contemporary cultures through fieldwork and firsthand study," the word ethnography stands for a complex amalgam of certain principles of method, representation, and analysis.  How do anthropologists learn to “see” culture and social organization in the course of fieldwork? How are generalizations built up out of everyday interactions with people in the course of research? What role does translation play in making sense of ways of life? What techniques allow us to analyze cultural meanings and social forms, such that we can claim to provide a true account? To explore these questions, we will read two ethnographies closely.  Our study of these two texts will be contextualized by discussion of articles and excerpts from important moments in the history of debate in anthropological theory. This course is organized around close study of the required readings, class discussions, writing exercises and study groups based on these readings, and background mini-lectures from the instructor. Active student participation is required in this reading-intensive course.


This course creates opportunities for students to:

  • Develop an understanding of how the knowledge goals and norms of the discipline of anthropology have changed over time;
  • Consider what constitutes an ethnographic mode of attention, and distinguish among different approaches;
  • Analyze how the European colonial context shaped the discipline and consider alternatives to this tradition;
  • Develop skills in close reading and alternative interpretations of ethnographic texts;
  • Use visualization to understand abstract concepts;
  • Use writing as a means to develop understanding of complexity and to express interpretations based on textual evidence.


  • Participation 15%
  • Reading response/preparation worksheets 15%
  • 500 word essay (2 x 15%) 30%
  • 1000-1200 word paper (2 x 20%) 40%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and you do not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, you will be assigned an N grade. Unless otherwise specified on the course outline, all other graded assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy: The Department of Sociology and Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style.  It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student.html.



1 notebook 7" x 9" or larger, unlined


Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (1940, 1990). The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
ISBN: 978-0-195003222

Hutchinson, S. E. (1996). Nuer Dilemmas: Coping with Money, War, and the State. Berkeley: University of California Press.
ISBN: 978-0-520202849

There will also be a required set of articles provided via Canvas.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html