Methodology of Social Anthropology

Diana Riboli


The course discusses the theory and method of ethnographic research, focusing on (a) the historical development of anthropology and (b) the way in which the collection of ethnographic data is associated with both theoretical and methodological issues. The course refers to methodological and epistemological concepts and tools of anthropology and critically discusses issues such as: the politics and practices of fieldwork; the ethnographer as subject and object of observation; inter-subjectivity and reflexive anthropology; the faces of incorporation/integration during fieldwork and the processes of ‘immersion into otherness’. It also analyses issues of “anthropology at home”, “anthropology as text", as well as issues of ethnographic research in complex societies and urban populations. The course also discusses methodological and epistemological issues referring to the collection/construction of research ‘data’ through participant observation, and also by the use of biographical methods a

Course code: TMH181
Category: Κοινωνικής Ανθρωπολογίας » Προπτυχιακό
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Course Units

Introduction to the course. The study of Otherness. The method of social Anthropology and Positivism. The establishment of fieldwork in American and British tradition: Franz Boas, Bronislaw Malinowski, A.R. Radcliffe-Brown. Salvage ethnography and the first anthrpological expeditions (A. Haddon, WHRRivers). The importance of being “there”, in the field.

-Ethnographic Movie: "Off the Verandah - Bronislaw Malinowski: 1884-1942", Director / Anthropologist: André Singer, Writer / Presenter: Bruce Dakowski. London: Royal Anthropological Institute, 1986.

Indicative Readings:

Text 4. Riboli, D. 2006. Approaching the Other. Anthropologist’s Myths and Illusions in dealing with Otherness in the West and in the East. In Kiriakakis C. And Michailidou M., The Approach of the Other. Ideology, Methodology and Research Practice. Metaichmio: 143-169. (In Greek)

The French tradition and Claude Lévi-Strauss. The linguistic shift and Boas’ influences. “Emic” and “etic” approaches. The concept of “culture” as an analytical tool in anthropology.

Systematic long-term fieldwork and participant observation. Different approaches. The “oxymoron” of participant observation. The meaning of the observation and the question “why the observation is not enough”. Symbolic interaction. The interweaving of theory and methodology. The “construction” of data.  Ethnographic approaches and ethnographic texts.

-Ethnographic Movie: «When Visitors Come». Director / Anthropologist: Rina Sherman, 2006, 32 minutes

The interpretive example in participant observation. From ethnographic realism to cultural critique, from the perception of social phenomena as “things” to the perception of them as structures and then as meanings, symbols, practices, and multiple modes of explanation. The meaning of “thick description” in the post-Geertz anthropology.

Indicative Readings:

Text 2. Gkefou-Madianou, D. 2011. "Reflection, Diversity and Anthropology at Home: Dilemmas and Controversies." In D.. Gkefou-Madianou (ed.) Anthropological Theory and Ethnography. Current Trends. pp. 365-435. New Issue, Series "Anthropological Horizons", Athens: Patakis. (In Greek)

The stages of fieldwork. Theoretic, epistemological and ethical issues in fieldwork.

Methodological issues in “anthropology at home”: the “problem” of otherness. Reflexive ethnography, multiple reflection (self-referentiality). Anthropologist’s subjectivity and inter-subjectivity. The always “imperfect” nature of the observer. Ethical dilemmas.


The fieldwork in dangerous environments. Methodological, theoretical and ethical issues


Indicative Reading:

Text 3. Kovats-Bernat, J.C. 2002. Negotiating Dangerous Fields: Pragmatic Strategies for Fieldwork amid Violence and Terror. American Anthropologist 10 (1): 208-222

Anthropology of the senses or the use of the senses as methodological tools.

The ethnographic method after cultural critique. “Multi-sited ethnography”.

Indicative Reading:

Text 1. Gkefou-Madianou, D. 2009. Aspects of Anthropological Research. Culture, History, Representations, ch. 1 ("Introduction: Anthropological Research after the Cultural Critique"): 15-36

Text 5. Riboli D. and Tacey, I., 2013. Emplaced, Embodied, Multi-sited, Collaborative Ethnography in Peninsular Malaysia. Man and Society 24: 1-20

The aboriginal anthropology and ethnographic research from the perspective of 'indigenous'.

Closure of Course.

Open Academic Course

Open Courses
OpenCourses Level: A-

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