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Methods in Social Anthropology

Anthropological Methods deals with how fieldwork is conducted, how anthropologists collect data, in relation to how anthropological knowledge is produced and conveyed via texts.

The course is organized around six themes: participant observation and other flexible research forms, roles and relations of the fieldworker, the anthropological interview, ethics in the field and after, the computer program NVivo7 and writing – from field notes to published text. The course discusses central ideas about the nature of good ethnography and how different types of fields (long-term, multi-local, mobile and transnational) are constructed, raising questions about the meaning of place. During the course common phases in the field are described and strategies (technologies) for material collection of different material categories (such as documents in archives, genealogies, network, time budgets, media material, Internet material and surveys) are included.

The course also brings up interpretation, coding and analysis of data, as well as concepts such as representation and memory. The role of the fieldworker in relation to informants, assistants and friends is another important area, which leads to discussions on reflexivity and personal and political relations of the fieldworker to his or her field. Here issues of age, ethnicity and gender can be included. Circumstances such as violence, political unrest and epidemics in the field can be decisive in how fieldwork is conducted, but even in a field which is free of such risks it is crucial to attain a balance and a sense of well-being in order to function well as a fieldworker.