Fall 2022 - SA 301 D100

Contemporary Ethnography (A) (4)

Class Number: 3437

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 7 – Dec 6, 2022: Tue, 8:30–11:20 a.m.

  • Instructor:

    Kathleen Millar
    Office: AQ 5062
    Office Hours: By appointment
  • 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 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 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 recent debates in anthropology. The overarching goal of the course is to develop a solid grasp of contemporary currents in ethnographic research and an appreciation for the diverse ways ethnographers have produced innovative analytical works.


By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Describe what an ethnography is;
  • Explain why writing an ethnography involves decisions that have political and ethical implications;
  • Give examples of how anthropologists have tried to address these political and ethical issues in different ways over time;
  • Develop an appreciation for the ways ethnography has changed historically—what it looked like in the past and what directions it is taking today;
  • Express their own original ideas about ethnography in clearly written, analytical essays.



  • Reading responses 15%
  • Participation 15%
  • Short essay 20%
  • Midterm 25%
  • Final essay 25%


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 Honesty and Student Conduct Policies: The Department of Sociology & Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T20.01), and academic honesty and student conduct procedures (S10‐S10.05). 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.

The Sociology and Anthropology Student Union, SASU, is a governing body of students who are engaged with the department and want to build the SA community. Get involved!  Follow Facebook and Instagram pages or visit our website.



The following books are available through the SFU bookstore.

• Bessire, Lucas. Behold the Black Caiman: A Chronicle of Ayoreo Life. University of Chicago Press (2014).

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

The final book we will read is available as an ebook through the SFU library. All other readings will be made available through Canvas.

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


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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