Fall 2016 - SA 301 D100

Contemporary Ethnography (A) (4)

Class Number: 3372

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2016: Wed, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    SA 201W.



A consideration of key themes in contemporary anthropology. This course addresses theoretical and methodological questions by examining the work of contemporary anthropologists conducting research in diverse locations around the world. Students with credit for SA 370 may not take SA 301 for further credit.


What is at stake when writing about the lives of others? What political, ethical, and epistemological issues arise when representing distinct human experience? These questions shook the very foundation of anthropology, beginning in the 1980s, by scrutinizing its core methodology and form—the ethnography. Since then, anthropologists have continued to wrestle with these questions by experimenting with ethnography as a craft of research, a genre of writing, and a political force. This course examines this experimentation in ethnography by exploring a diverse set of recent, cutting-edge works. Our journey will take us from the forests of northern Paraguay where some of the last isolated indigenous bands flee encroaching bulldozers; to the high powered offices of Wall Street bankers whose workplace culture both produces and legitimates economic crisis; and finally to a rehab clinic in northern New Mexico where those struggling with heroin addiction grapple with a history of material and cultural dispossession. Through our readings and discussions, we will consider both the formal properties of the texts as well as how their theoretical arguments contribute to current debates in anthropology. The overarching goal of the course is to develop a solid grasp of new trends in ethnographic research and an appreciation for the diverse ways ethnographers have produced innovative analytical works.


  • Discussion questions/responses 15%
  • Short essay 25%
  • Midterm 30%
  • Final Paper 30%


All 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.



Bessire, Lucas. Behold the Black Caiman: A Chronicle of Ayoreo Life. University of Chicago Press

Ho, Karen. Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street. Duke University Press (2009).

Garcia, Angela. The Pastoral Clinic: Addiction and Dispossession Along the Rio Grande. University
of California Press (2010).

Additional readings will be available through Canvas.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/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