BASS Politics and Data Analytics / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Ethnographies and Adventures in Manchester

Course unit fact file
Unit code SOAN30382
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This module begins by exploring the intellectual interventions and traditions that have emerged in the anthropology in and of Britain over the last 50 years, and then swiftly moves into exploring the ways in which interdisciplinary ethnographic research has been conducted across Britain. We set out to identify and interrogate the essential and distinctive themes that have emerged from ethnographic research on British societies, which have contributed to theoretical and methodological insights to substantive issues and philosophical concerns that are central to disciplines across the Social Sciences.

Whilst reading ethnographies in cross cultural, global contexts, in this module we place a particular emphasis on the urban context of Greater Manchester. We will explore ethnographies that have been based on ethnographic research across Greater Manchester, and which raise and address urgent questions of social, political and economic change in Manchester and beyond. We will tackle the concept of ‘the urban’ by exploring ethnographic examples from anthropology, sociology, human geography and business studies that focus on social and cultural lives and relations that can be found very close to our doorstep. We will be taking two fieldtrips (Cheetham’s Library and Manchester Airport) and two walking tours (Fallowfield and Rusholme) to ‘visit’ and reflect on the ethnographic locations of the materials and readings we engage with. We will develop a deep understanding of, and engagement with the substantive ethnographic materials and locations, the differences and similarities in ethnographic research across social sciences disciplines, and the theoretical frameworks that have emerged from ethnographies in/of British social and cultural lives. We will then raise the question of ‘so what’? Why does understanding British social and cultural life matter? What can and should anthropologists and other social scientists in/of British social and cultural lives do for Britain and beyond?


Upon completion of this module, students will have gained advanced knowledge of a special region of anthropology, the core themes as they have emerged from the region, how these core themes have been addressed ethnographically across the social sciences and how to make sense of ethnographic research in interdisciplinary contexts. With a focus on ethnographic research conducted in Greater Manchester from an interdisciplinary perspective, students will be asked to conduct required reading on a weekly basis, from the core text for this module, J. Symons and C. Lewis (eds) 2018. Realising the City: Urban Ethnography in Manchester, Manchester University Press, which tackles questions about urban contexts through interdisciplinary ethnographic perspectives. Students will complete weekly seminar tasks for formative feedback each week in seminars. Formative feedback on their seminar tasks will be provided in written and oral form in weekly seminars. We will embark on two fieldtrips and two walking tours during seminar hours on this module, to explore ethnographic locations and conduct some observations for formative assessment.

Formal assessment will include one 4,000 word essay. The aim of this form of assessment is to: a.) deepen an understanding of the core ideas of this module and develop them over the weeks in preparation for final assessment; b.) to direct seminar readings and motivate seminar discussion and analysis of the readings; and c.) to achieve learning outcomes at this level, including analysis and critical evaluation of readings they have done as well as the presentation of well-structured argumentation in essays and debate. d.) formative tasks for seminars will encourage students to feel more confident in speaking and writing about anthropological and social scientific ideas, critiquing and debating taken-for-granted preconceptions across social science disciplines as well as make analytical connections between theory and everyday life.

Learning outcomes

  • To provide an in-depth understanding of the development of theoretical approaches and ethnographic insights that have emerged in the anthropology in and of British social and cultural life, and to give students the opportunity to think at a more advanced level about a range of problems relation to the acquisition, production, communication and uses of anthropological knowledge and its substantive content and relevance to the world in which we now live.
  • Upon completion of this module, students will have gained advanced knowledge of a special region of social scientific research, the core themes that have emerged from interdisciplinary work in this region, as well as the ways in which the core insights that ongoing research in Manchester and beyond can contribute across the Social Sciences.
  • Student will be better equipped to discuss issues about the intellectual, social and political significance of understanding social and cultural lives across Manchester (e.g. in relation to the Levelling Up agenda), and be familiar with the different positions adopted in relevant discussions and debates.
  • They also will become familiar with a range of recent work that has sought to extend the boundaries of anthropological and social scientific knowledge into new areas of research and achieve new kinds of critical understandings of society, culture, power relations, identity, creativity, and imagination.
  • This module will ground abstract theory in everyday life that they can engage with in Manchester.



Brief Overview of the Syllabus and Topics:

1. Methodologies and Ethnomethodologies: Intellectual Interventions and Contributions from an Anthropology in/of Britain

2. On "Community", Identities and Boundary Symbolisms: Pushing academic traditions and boundaries

3.  Policy: Navigating the Interstices of the British State

4.  Welfare, Poverty and Development: (In)equalities and (un)fairness in everyday lives

5.  New Productions of Histories in Britain: Social Class, Nationalism and Stereotypes

6.  Performances of Tradition: The Making and Re-making of Art Forms in Britain

7.  A Multi-Ethnic Britain:  What Might Progress Look Like?

8.  Value Added: The Utility of Ethnography in Britain and Making Scholarly Contributions Beyond Anthropology

9.  Accountability and the Representation of Fieldwork: When They Read What We Write.

10. Ethnographies and Adventures in Manchester: Legacies and the Future of Ethnographies in/of Britain


Teaching and learning methods

  • 20 two-hour lectures
  • 10 one-hour seminars (including 2 x fieldtrips and 2 x walking tours

Knowledge and understanding

- Students will understand ethnographic studies in/of Britain from across several social science disciplines as embodying an appreciation for the relationship between society and the individual in particular ways.

- Students will develop a sensitive appreciation of multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Britain, and the lived concerns of people in Britain from an anthropological and social scientific perspective.

- The module will contribute to dissertation research, preparation and techniques.

Intellectual skills

Students will learn how to create an annotated bibliography.

Speak to the theoretical, methodological and substantive issues of central concern to anthropology and the social sciences more broadly, using insights from a British context.

Write a critically engaged and self-reflexive essay.

Practical skills

Create an annotated bibliography

- Apprehend policy language and rhetoric in Britain at a basic level

- Use the library’s extensive databases for articles and books

- Group work and leading open discussion in seminars

Transferable skills and personal qualities

-Group and collaborative work

-Critical anthropological analysis of policy

-Identification of different forms of argumentation and rationale in a familiar context.

-Use of Blackboard

-Use of databases and keywords, Boolean operators and other database search skills.

Assessment methods

1 x 4000 word final essay

Optional practice midterm essay

Feedback methods

Comments on Blackboard

Recommended reading

Arensberg, C. & Kimball, S. (1965). Culture and Community. Harcourt Publications.

Baumann, G. (1996). Contesting Culture: Discourses of Identity in multi-ethnic London. Cambridge University Press.

Benson, M. and E. Jackson (2013). Place-making and Place Maintenance: Practices of Place and Belonging among the Middle Classes”,  Sociology, 47(4), pp. 793-809.

Chevalier, S., J. Edwards and S. Macdonald (2007). “Anthropology   at   Home   in   Britain:  from   the   margins   to   the   centre”,  Ethnologie Franc¿aise, 2.

Coffey, A. (1999). The ethnographic self: fieldwork and the representation of identity. London: Sage.

Cohen, A. (ed.) (1982). Belonging: Identity and Social Organisation in British Rural Cultures. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Cohen, A.P. (ed.) (1982). Symbolising Boundaries: Identity and Diversity in British Cultures. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Cohen, A.P. (1985). The Symbolic Construction of Community. New York: Routledge.

Cohen, A.P. (ed.) (2000). ‘Peripheral vision: nationalism, national identity and the objective correlative in Scotland’ in Signifying Identities: Anthropological perspectives on boundaries and contested values. London; New York: Routledge. Pp. 145 – 169.

Degnen, C. (2005.)  “Relationality,  place,  and  absence:  a  three- dimensional  perspective  on  social  memory”,  The Sociological Review 53(4), pp. 729–744.

Degnen, C., (2012). Ageing Selves and Everyday Life in the North of England: Years in the Making, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Di Leonardo, M., (1998), Exotics at Home: Anthropologies, Others, American Modernity, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Edwards,  J.  (1998).  ‘The   need   for   a   'bit   of   history':   place   and   past   in   English   identity’,   in   N. Lovell (Ed.) Locality and Belonging. London: Routledge, pp. 145–167.

Edwards, J. (2000). Born and Bred: Idioms of Kinship and New Reproductive Technologies in England. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Edwards, J., G.  Evans  and  K.  Smith  (2012).  ‘Introduction:  the  middle   class-ification   of   Britain’,   Focaal—Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, 62, pp. 3–16.

Evans, G. (2006). Educational Failure and Working-class White Children in Britain. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Eriksen, T.H. (1991). ‘A Community of European Social Anthropologists’ in Current Anthropology. Vol.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Seminars 9
Independent study hours
Independent study 171

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Katherine Smith Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Required Reading:

J. Symons and C. Lewis (eds) 2018. Realising the City: Urban Ethnography in Manchester, Manchester University Press, which tackles questions about urban contexts through interdisciplinary ethnographic perspectives.

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