Ethnology

About the subject

Do you want to acquire the tools to understand and explain culture and society today, yesterday and in older times? In ethnology you learn how to work ethnographically with fieldwork, participant observations and interviews.

How do people understand themselves, the world around them, and their history? How do individuals and groups shape their lives and conceptual systems in different times and in different conditions?

Do you want to learn about how we live today and in the past? To investigate different living spaces and their design? To learn about clothes as fashion or identity? To understand the culture of food and eating has changed from farms to fast food? Then ethnology, formerly known as folklife studies, is the subject for you.

Ethnologists research culture and everyday life in different contexts and times. We study the significance of celebrations throughout the year and throughout life, people’s folklore and traditions, rituals and routines, crafts, and foodways. Ethnological research and teaching also includes current societal issues of globalization, migration, diversity, national and transnational belonging, cultural heritage and places of memory, experience tourism and the experience economy, popular culture, gender and sexuality, and sustainable development of nature and the environment.

Early in your education you learn how to hone your skills in ethnographic methods, observational fieldwork and studies of archival material and artefacts, followed by analysis and writing. You will acquire an ethnological gaze – an ability to see everyday things and question what we take for granted, and to see alien things in a way that makes them more understandable.

Some of the teaching is given at the Nordic Museum, Skansen, and other museums. You can study ethnology as either a full degree programme or as separate courses.

Career opportunities

As a graduate ethnologist you can plan, organize and perform ethnographic fieldwork with observations and interviews. Critical perspectives and ethnographic methods can be applied in both the private and the public sector, in political and interest groups, and in the educational and cultural sectors. The education gives a cultural understanding that is in demand in fields such as community planning, company development, innovation, technology and the environment. The job market for ethnologists consists of museums, global companies, the experience and tourism industry, the antiques and auction business, and the care sector. In working life, ethnologists act as consultants on issues of equality and diversity, perform evaluations and inquiries, do market and trend analyses, and work as project leaders and communicators. There is a growing demand for ethnologists’ knowledge of how cultures arise and change, and for their ability to analyse culture. Areas where an increasing demand is expected for an ethnologist’s competence are the security sector, the evolving relationship with digitization, preparedness for climate change, and adaptation to changed living conditions. One can expect a rising demand for ethnological knowledge about ways of life in the past, pre-industrial agriculture and animal husbandry, bygone building practices, food conservation, crafts and tools.

Courses and programmes

Degree

Research

Ethnology is the study of culture in the widest possible sense. Its traditional field of interest was pre-industrial culture of Sweden and the other Nordic countries, studied in a comparative historical/geographical perspective. In the course of the 1900’s, the discipline has expanded its scope and reoriented itself towards new theories and perspectives. Today, ethnologists are recognised for being able to make the everyday things strange and the strange familiar, for their habit of writing in a style that is accessible also for a wider, non-academic audience, and for their capability of turning almost everything into data for their projects.