Spring 2019 - SA 386 D100

The Ethnography of Politics (SA) (4)

Class Number: 3119

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 3 – Apr 8, 2019: Tue, 8:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Sonja Luehrmann
    1 778 782-4761
    Office: AQ 5059
  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or 150 or 201W.



An examination of the ways in which ethnographers seek to understand a world experiencing profound changes in the relationships between governments and the societies they govern. Topics to be considered may include: relations between indigenous peoples and governments; the social and cultural dynamics of public policy making; the articulation of human rights issues. The focus of the course will vary from semester to semester.


We often hear that democracy requires an engaged citizenry. But what does civic engagement mean? What makes it possible for people to participate actively in public life, while others remain in the background? This class starts from classical theories of civil society and the public sphere and then moves to anthropological studies of public participation in unlikely places: postsocialist societies with low levels of participation in formal politics, and countries where independent NGO-sectors are weakly developed. Readings will include examples of the varied institutional and cultural settings in which people provide mutual solidarity and support, as well as barriers of race, gender, political systems, and economics that make participation more difficult. The goal is to question the assumptions about culture and history that are often embedded in ideas of civil society, and to recognize the diverse institutional landscapes that shape public participation.

In addition to readings, lectures and discussions, activities in the course will include hearing from guest lecturers and using video and cultural inquiry to learn about varieties of public engagement. Students will complete weekly reading responses, write a mid-term and a take-home final, and compile a portfolio of cultural inquiry into a political concept of their choice.


  • Seminar participation 20%
  • Reading responses 10%
  • Midterm exam 20%
  • Cultural inquiry portfolio 30%
  • Final exam (take-home) 20%


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.



Jacobsson, Kerstin & Korolczuk, Elżbieta (Eds.) (2017). Civil Society Revisited: Lessons from Poland. New York: Berghahn.
ISBN: 978-1-785335518

Schiller, Naomi. (2018). Channeling the State: Community Media and Popular Politics in Venezuela. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
ISBN: 978-1-478001447


Gripsrud, Jostein et al. (Eds.). (2010). The Idea of the Public Sphere: A Reader. Lanham: Lexington Books.

Available through Library Reserve.
ISBN: 978-0-739141984

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