Spring 2020 - SA 301 D100

Contemporary Ethnography (A) (4)

Class Number: 3001

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 6 – Apr 9, 2020: Fri, 9:30 a.m.–1:20 p.m.

  • 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 Ethnography? As both a methodology and a genre this anthropological research approach, that has come to be used in several other fields, has transformed 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.


  • Ethnographic activities 35%
  • Ethnographic story 25%
  • Oral presentation 15%
  • Facilitation 10%
  • 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.



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

This book is available online through the SFU Library here.
ISBN: 978-0-520272958

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

This book is available online through the SFU Library here.

  • Number of simultaneous users allowed: 1
  • PDF downloading or exporting is not permitted for this title
  • Text selection and copying is not permitted for this title

ISBN: 978-1-442636613

Lester, R. J. (2005). Jesus in our Wombs: Embodying Modernity in a Mexican Convent, 1st Ed. University of California Press.

This book is available through the SFU Library here.
ISBN: 978-0-520242685

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