Fall 2021 - SA 359 D100

Special Topics in Anthropology (A) (4)

Ethnographic Storytelling

Class Number: 5389

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 4:30 PM – 8:20 PM
    AQ 5039, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Dara Culhane
    Office: AQ 5072
    Office Hours: By appointment
  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or 150 or 201W.



Explores a topic in Anthropology not regularly offered by the department.


This is a practice-based course that invites students to create and present life stories while reading, watching, hearing and responding to those created by others.

Storytelling is a diverse and rapidly expanding field drawing interest from multiple academic disciplines, professional practitioners in a wide range of areas, artists, governments, oil companies and activists. We will focus on contemporary life storytelling work engaged in by anthropologists, ethnographers, and performance studies scholars and artists, paying particular attention to relationships among storytellers, their stories, and the cultural/political contexts in which specific forms of life storytelling are practiced. Questions animating the course will include: What constitutes a “story”? A “life story”? Why tell life stories? Why hear them? How does political power shape who may tell what stories to who, when, where, and how? How may life storytellers reproduce and/or challenge dominant political powers? What ethical/political questions does life storytelling work raise? How might one do life storytelling, and research about storytelling?

Throughout the course, we will tack back and forth between the life stories students research, create and collaborate on during in class workshops, and the storytelling work of others that we read about, watch, listen to and experience.

The approach this course will take to the subject matter (Storytelling) and the methodology (Ethnography) demands the co-presence of bodies engaging in face-to-face conversation in a shared space. Some graded work will be completed in class; student project planning and practice will be conducted primarily through collaborative processes during in class workshops; and, storytelling will be approached throughout as an irreducibly relational practice necessarily involving storytellers and audiences.

Attendance at every class, including the first, will be required.


  • Ethnographic journal (multi-media diary) 20%
  • Class participation and analyses of readings and viewings 30%
  • Term project: Life story development exercises 20%
  • Term project: Final presentation 30%


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.



All readings will be available through Canvas, the SFU Library, or otherwise online as noted.

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.