MusM Music (Ethnomusicology)

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Ethno/Musicology in Action: Fieldwork and Ethnography

Course unit fact file
Unit code MUSC60032
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Music
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course-unit focuses on the principles and practice of ethnography and fieldwork, with particular reference to music. It offers you the opportunity to extend your knowledge and understanding of issues relating to ethnographic fieldwork and writing, and to develop a toolkit for undertaking primary research with human subjects and present-day communities, whether close to home or further afield. Topics normally include: historical perspectives on fieldwork practice; the development of fieldwork methodology; fieldwork ethics; fieldwork and gender issues; fieldwork at home; the roles of archives; transcription; ethnographic film; constructing an ethnography; ethnographic style; and the politics of ethnographic representation. As part of the course you may also have the opportunity to design your own small fieldwork project and/or undertake exploratory activity related to your dissertation topic.

(All fieldwork is subject to government guidelines)



This unit is available to students taking the following programmes:

MusM Music

MA Arts Management, Policy and Practice

MA Social Anthropology


Students taking other programmes should consult the Course Unit Director.


  • To explore issues in fieldwork practice and ethnographic writing, primarily through a detailed study of set texts supplemented by practical exercises.
  • To examine changes in approaches to fieldwork and ethnography from a historical and interdisciplinary perspective.
  • To consider ethical questions relating to fieldwork impact and the politics of representation.
  • To equip participants with a sound theoretical and methodological foundation for their own ethnographic investigations.

(All fieldwork is subject to government guidelines)





Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate in-depth knowledge and understanding of different approaches to fieldwork and ethnographic writing, from both practical and theoretical perspectives.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the personal, professional, ethical and political issues associated with research in the field and representation in academic writing.

(All fieldwork is subject to government guidelines)


Intellectual skills

  • Synthesise and evaluate a wide range of material relating to the topics under consideration.
  • Present informed, cogent and critical evaluations of the material studied.
  • Interpret primary texts, engage with secondary literature, and formulate their own arguments.
  • Design research questions and identify and develop appropriate methodologies.


Practical skills

  • Put into practice the skills necessary for undertaking successful fieldwork, including participant-observation, interview design and practice, note-taking, recording and transcription.
  • Articulate, discuss and support findings coherently in both written and verbal form.
  • Demonstrate a command of diverse writing styles.
  • Work effectively towards clearly delineated goals.

(All fieldwork is subject to government guidelines)


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Produce high-quality work independently with self-motivation and critical self-awareness.
  • Demonstrate well-developed skills in the use of library, online and other resources.
  • Demonstrate initiative, sensitivity and sound judgement in interpersonal and collaborative work.
  • Show that they have acquired a solid theoretical and methodological foundation for their own ethnographic work and developed skills appropriate to undertaking an individual research project.


Employability skills

Time management skills Oral presentation skills Interacting with critical peers Creative problem-solving Digital skills Analytical skills

Assessment methods

Essay 1 50%
Essay 2 50%
Presentation 0%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Verbal feedback on class presentations


Verbal feedback on essay plans


Written feedback on coursework essays


Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hours or by making an appointment)



Recommended reading

  • Barz, Gregory F. and William Cheng (eds.), Queering the Field: Sounding Out Ethnomusicology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).
  • Barz, Gregory F. and Timothy J. Cooley (eds.), Shadows in the Field: New Perspectives on Fieldwork in Ethnomusicology, 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • Brettell, Caroline B., When They Read What We Write: The Politics of Ethnography (Westport, Conn: Bergin and Garvey, 1993)
  • Clifford, James, and Marcus, George E. (eds.), Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986; 25th anniversary edition 2010)
  • Cooley, Timothy (ed.), Fieldwork Impact: special issue of The British Journal of Ethnomusicology, 12, 1 (2003)
  • Landau, Carolyn and Janet Topp Fargion (eds.), Ethnomusicology, Archives and Communities: Methodologies for an Equitable Discipline: special issue of Ethnomusicology Forum, 21, 2 (2012)
  • Nettl, Bruno, The Study of Ethnomusicology: Thirty-Three Discussions (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2015)
  • Pink, Sarah, Doing Sensory Ethnography, 2nd edition (London: Sage, 2015)
  • van Maanen, John, Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography, 2nd edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 267

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Chloe Alaghband-Zadeh Unit coordinator

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