Fall 2021 - SA 301 D100

Contemporary Ethnography (A) (4)

Class Number: 5342

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    RCB 6101, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Natasha Ferenczi
    Office Hours: We 12:30-14:30 or by appointment
  • 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.


What is distinctive about contemporary ethnography? As both a methodology and a genre this anthropological approach has transformed significantly over the past four decades, largely in efforts to decolonize knowledge and research approaches, methodologically, theoretically and in the crafting of ethnography. Yet, after becoming so used to writing within academic traditions, how do we free our imaginations, both in terms of form and content? We must, on the one hand, radicalize disciplinary traditions and challenge colonial legacies in knowledge production, and, on the other hand, re-think representational approaches in ways of writing and communicating, (exploring genre).

In this class, we will examine shifts in theoretical approaches and their broader historical contexts, and creative directions in contemporary ethnographic writing, as we analyze two ethnographic texts and one comic (ethnoGRAPHIC series). These ethnographies focus in depth on embodied experiences and subjectivity, and by analyzing the distinct ways they have been crafted, we will piece together a mosaic of ways ethnography can contribute to social understanding and to social justice. Students will also be prompted to experiment with different genres of expression through small ethnographic experiments that will correspond to weekly readings (e.g. photography, comics, poetry, exploration of the senses), and by crafting a multi-genre ethnographic story. During this process, students will be asked to think reflexively about tendencies in their own writing.

This is a reading intensive course and active, consistent, in-class participation and engagement with ethnographic explorations is expected.


  • Ethnographic explorations 20%
  • Ethnographic story 20%
  • Critical essays (2 x 15%) 30%
  • Oral presentation of ethnographic story 15%
  • Participation 15%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and the student does not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, an N grade will be assigned. Unless otherwise specified on the course syllabus, all graded assignments for this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned. An N is considered as an F for the purposes of scholastic standing.

Grading System: The Undergraduate Course Grading System is as follows:

A+ (95-100) | A (90-94) | A- (85-89) | B+ (80-84) | B (75-79) | B- (70-74) | C+ (65-69) | C (60-64) | C- (55-59) | D (50-54) | F (0-49) | N*
*N standing to indicate the student did not complete course requirements

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy: The Department of Sociology & 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.

Centre for Accessible Learning: Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.



Plain, unlined paper, and pencils for exploring genre as part of ethnographic explorations.


Biehl, J. (2013). Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment. 2nd ed. University of California Press.

Text available in full via the SFU Library here.

Culhane, D. and Elliott, D. (2016). A Different Kind of Ethnography: Imaginative Practices and Creative Methodologies. 1st ed. University of Toronto Press.

Text available in full via the SFU Library here.

Lester, R. (2005). Jesus in our Wombs: Embodying modernity in a Mexican convent. 1st ed. University of California Press.

Text available in full via the SFU Library here.
ISBN: 978-0-520242661

Waterston, A., Corden, C. (2020). Light in dark times: the human search for meaning. University of Toronto Press.

Text available in full via the SFU Library here.

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


Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.