BASS Sociology and Criminology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Intro to Ethnographic Reading

Course unit fact file
Unit code SOAN10322
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Introduction to Ethnographic Reading is a core semester two module for BSocSci Anthropology first year undergraduates. It is open to students on other programmes, including Single Honours, Joint Honours, and BASS with Social Anthropology pathway First Year students. Its overall aim is to explore ways in which concepts of culture and society have been theorised within anthropology. In particular, we will look at how an anthropological commitment to ethnographic work shapes contemporary approaches to human culture and society. The module gives you an introduction to how contemporary anthropology is building on and transforming some of the theoretical approaches to human culture and society discussed in the first part of this course.

Over the course of this module, we will be reading and discussing four ethnographic texts, identifying themes and ethnographically emergent concerns, and how anthropologists analyse these concerns. Each of these ethnographies provides an account of how people, in their everyday lives, manage environments and relations that are always in a process of socio-cultural change. The texts have been chosen to demonstrate how contemporary ethnographic research identifies and analyses the diverse social and cultural theories encountered in the field as they are produced in narratives, everyday understandings, expert discourse and state bureaucracies.

A close reading of these texts will provide the basis for understanding:

  1. The strengths and limitations of ethnography as a way of approaching the question of how people make sense of the world;
  2. The ways in which ethnographic works with ‘indigenous theory’ as enacted in the narratives, rituals, exchanges and material practices of those they study;
  3. The importance of comparative analysis in anthropological thinking.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Key Ideas in Social Anthropology SOAN10321 Co-Requisite Compulsory


The course unit aims to:

Give students an introduction to how contemporary anthropology is building on and transforming some of the theoretical approaches to human culture and society and advancing its public impact through a variety of forms of ethnographic research. We will do this by focusing on ethnographies in both textual, visual and aural forms.

Learning outcomes

Student should/will be able to

• Develop understanding of how the particular forms of ethnographic research and representation shapes anthropological approaches to human social and cultural life.

• Gain knowledge about ethnographic analyses of core anthropological concerns with experience, the urban and natural environments, memory, the self and the social order, and other issues.

• Have a grasp of the importance of relationality, processes, and reflexivity in contemporary anthropological theorizing.

• Engage with difficult texts and visual and aural material with a critical eye and pose analytical questions.

• Establish the foundations to become an independent learner.

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will consist of ten two-hour lectures and weekly one-hour tutorials. 

Assessment methods

  • 1 x 2,000 words final essay

Feedback methods

Electronic and personalised feedback

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 70

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Katherine Smith Unit coordinator

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