Spring 2019 - SA 301 D100

Contemporary Ethnography (A) (4)

Class Number: 3025

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 3 – Apr 8, 2019: Fri, 9:30 a.m.–1:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Natasha Ferenczi
    Office: AQ-tba
    Office Hours: FR 13:30-15:30
  • 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 ethnography? As both a methodology and a genre this anthropological research approach, that has come to be used in several other fields, has evolved and mutated through time since the classic works of Malinowski, Mead, Benedict and Evans-Pritchard. This course will focus on contemporary ethnography and creative directions ethnographers have taken to decolonize ways of thinking, conducting, and writing ethnography. We will read three ethnographies (two of which are assigned, and one will be your choice) that in many ways pioneer new ways of understanding the body, social behaviours, and relationships between human and nonhuman beings.

We will explore the following questions: How do ethnographers constitute subjects and objects? How do they configure relationships between human and nonhuman beings, or the body and nature? How does their work contribute to our understanding of what it is to be human? By reading these ethnographies, we will piece together a complex, (and necessarily incomplete) mosaic of ways ethnography might contribute to social understanding and social justice. Students will explore the crafting of ethnographic writing and a variety of ethnographic approaches including walking methodologies, auto-ethnography, explorations of the senses, Indigenous methodologies, performance, photography, comics, and graphic shorts. These activities will be coupled with more conceptual exercises that will focus on the formal aspects of ethnographies and their theoretical contributions.

You will be expected to think critically and reflexively as you read, discuss, and take part in activities that ask that you engage and reflect on 1) your senses, by paying attention to embodied multisensory experience, 2) your biases and assumptions, and 3) what ethical research should entail. This is a reading-intensive course and active in-class participation and regular written work are expected. Your participation will involve imagination and creativity. Class time will include a mix of ethnographic activities, light lecturing, formal analysis of ethnographic texts, and of different artistic mediums, which will be coupled with exercises that encourage you to explore writing in multiple genres.


  • Cultural identity assignment 10%
  • Final essay abstract, outline, annotated bibliograpy 10%
  • Final essay 20%
  • Ethnographic activities 20%
  • Ethnography oral assignment 15%
  • Facilitation 10%
  • Participation 15%


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.    



Biehl, J. (2013). Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment, 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.
ISBN: 978-0-520272958

Elliott, D. & Culhane, D. (2017). A Different Kind of Ethnography: Imaginative Practices and Creative Methodologies. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
ISBN: 978-1-442636613

Lester, R. J. (2005). Jesus in Our Wombs: Embodying Modernity in a Mexican Convent. Berkeley: University of California Press.
ISBN: 978-0-520242685


Narayan, K. (2012). Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
ISBN: 978-0-226568195

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