Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module ANTH44115: Interrogating Ethnography

Department: Anthropology

ANTH44115: Interrogating Ethnography

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap None.
Tied to L6K307
Tied to L6K607
Tied to L6K507


  • Thinking Anthropologically


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To understand the workings of ethnographic writing and ethnographic argument through detailed engagement with four book-length monographs.
  • Enable students to develop the specific critical and theoretical skills required to unpack others’ (and construct their own) ethnographic accounts.
  • To engage closely with and think comparatively across, four instances of sophisticated anthropological work.
  • To explore the practical, epistemic and methodological aspects of ethnography as the distinctive method of socio-cultural anthropology


  • One of the most distinctive aspects of anthropology as a discipline is the way in which theoretical arguments are articulated through detailed, in-depth ethnographic accounts of particular places. In an intellectual environment increasingly marked by fragmentation of arguments into article-length 'hits', the book-length ethnographic monograph may seem a strange and unwieldy format, but it makes space for a distinctive type of theoretical argument to emerge at a very different pace. Mastering the ethnographic monograph is thus key to understanding what is anthropological about anthropological theory
  • Ethnographies examined in previous years have been (these may change from time to time: o Reed, A.D.E. 2003. Papua New Guinea's last place : experiences of constraint in a postcolonial prison. New York: Berghahn Books. o Willerslev, R. 2007. Soul hunters : hunting, animism, and personhood among the Siberian Yukaghirs. Berkeley: University of California Press. o Hirschkind, C. 2006. The ethical soundscape : cassette sermons and Islamic counterpublics. New York: Columbia University Press. o Helmreich, S. 2009. Alien ocean : anthropological voyages in microbial seas. Berkeley: University of California Press. o Candea, M. 2010. Corsican Fragments: Difference, knowledge and fieldwork. Bloomington, Indiana University Press.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Have an advanced knowledge of four key ethnographic texts in recent anthropology.
  • Understand and critically evaluate the relevance of ethnography as a mode of anthropological research.
  • Ability to apply theoretical insights to ethnographic texts and contexts.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to read and critically evaluate book-length ethnographic arguments.
  • Competency to conduct in-depth and theoretically informed analysis of a particular issue in relation to detailed ethnographic material.
  • Engage anthropological arguments in relation to ethnographic methodology, ethics and epistemology.
Key Skills:
  • Prepare and present scholarly work for seminars and assessment.
  • Independent and critical reading of ethnographies.
  • Ability to integrate and apply new knowledge and skills in professional practice.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Seminars
  • Presentations
  • Essay

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 weekly 2 hours 18
Preparation and Reading 132
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative feedback on Seminar presentations

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University