The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Course Descriptions

Fall 2021

Ethnographic Data Analysis (ANTHRO 697ED) - 3 credits

Elizabeth Krause

This graduate seminar surveys methods of ethnographic data analysis. Students will become familiar with a range of approaches to analyzing qualitative data. The focus will be on developing skills to conduct systematic and interpretive analysis of textual data in ways that honor what human participants have to say, treasure the stories and artifacts they create, and respect the complexity of social life as it is lived and represented. Skills can be extended to images, audio, and video. The course covers approaches that cut across traditions, including identifying themes, defining codes, developing codebooks, and collaborating in teams. Exposure to advanced traditions of text-based analysis include critical discourse analysis and word-based approaches. Hands-on assignments will make use of computer software to facilitate learning (e.g., MAXQDA). Exercises draw on toy data and civil rights oral history archives. Students may use their own data for the final project but are not required to do so. Classes meet weekly and are divided between lectures and labs.

Performance Ethnography (COMM 795M) - 3 credits

Claudio Moreira

What is Ethnography? What is Performance (auto) Ethnography? How can we think about Performing Ethnography? This performance-based seminar will focus on the implications of decolonizing emancipatory epistemologies for critical, interpretive inquiry. Drawing heavily in the works of Dwight Conquergood, Norman Denzin, and D. Soyini Madison, we give a rest to traditional forms of qualitative inquiry as we disrupt the notion of "business as usual" in the academic space. We will examine the interpenetrating relationships among performance, ethnography, and culture. The readings and assignments forefront localized critical pedagogy, critical personal narratives, decolonizing and interpretive inquiry as moral, political discourse. From the everyday space where gender, race, class, and performances intersect, we will examine how the practices of critical inquiry can be used to imagine, write and perform a free democratic society.

Qualitative Research Methods (EDUC 619) – 3 credits

Sally Campbell Galman

In this course we will learn about a wide variety of data gathering techniques as well as about the epistemological and ontological foundations of qualitative study design and fieldcraft. As part of the course you will read essential texts on method as well as exemplar studies. Additionally, and most importantly, you will be designing and conducting a mini-study of your very own. This is a project that will begin almost immediately and will require your dedicated attention as you work to define your question, plan data gathering, enter the field, and begin preliminary data analyses. Research methodology and fieldcraft are skills that a scholar refines over a lifetime, and I am so glad to be with you on this first step. Your instructor has been a member of two large university Institutional Review Boards and will provide a robust introduction to human subjects approvals and research ethics for qualitative researchers.

Health Communication (PH 608) - 3 credits

Aline Gubrium

This course provides students with a critical understanding of the effects of narratives, storytelling, and media communication—mass, social, and participatory—in promoting and impeding the achievement of public health goals. Students will develop communication skills to strategically advance public health policies and social change, with ethical considerations paramount. The course covers the design, implementation and evaluation of health communication campaigns to promote public health goals, examines theories and research on health communication influences with respect to its potential harmful effects—as well as its potential emancipatory or empowering effects—on wellbeing. Students will design a digital media-based health communication campaign. Students learn participatory storytelling processes to promote active sense making among participants. 

Distance, Deceit, Denial (POLISCI 792DD) - 3 credits

Timothy Pachirat

This course explores the roles of distance, deceit, and denial in structuring, reproducing, and contesting relations of domination and exploitation. Drawing on a wide range of ethnographic, historical, sociological, psychological, architectural, and anthropological case studies, as well as novels, short stories, and military manuals, the course aims to stimulate imaginative theorizing and generative research projects about the operation of distance, deceit, and denial in three specific dimensions: language (euphemism, dysphemism, public and hidden transcripts, etc.), space (borders, walls, checkpoints, special economic zones, camps, policing and surveillance technologies, modes of experience-distant warfare, etc.), and social organization (the division of labor, hierarchy, chains of command, etc.). In addition to exploring distance, deceit, and denial as mechanisms of domination and exploitation, specific attention will also be given to the efficacy and ambiguities of movements and technologies that aim to collapse distance. 

Ethnographic  Methods I (SOC 797o) - 3 credits

Millie Thayer & Fareen Parvez

This yearlong seminar offers both hands-on training in ethnographic methods, with an emphasis on the extended case method, and an opportunity to read and analyze ethnographic work situated in different epistemological and representational traditions. Students conduct their own field research over the course of two semesters, acting as participant-observers in a field site for a minimum of 4-5 hours a week, taking field notes, situating the project in a body of literature, and producing a final paper at the end of the year, based on your research. We will cover technical, epistemological, ethical, representational and political issues related to the process of doing this kind of study, and will spend a number of class sessions discussing one another’s fieldwork and helping each other “make sense” of the data. Reading and other assignments will take into account the time required for fieldwork. In the fall, we will focus most of our attention on urban ethnography and studies that emphasize questions of class, race, gender, politics, and work, because of their historical importance for the development of the methodology. In the spring, we will read ethnographies and expand the range of topics to include international as well as US-based studies, and new trends, such as “carnal,” “embodied,” or “virtual” ethnography.

Spring 2022

Political Ethnography (POLISCI 791PA) - 3 credits

Timothy Pachirat

What does it mean to study politics from below? How does immersion of the researcher in the research world contribute to the study of power? What are the promises, and perils, of social research that invites the unruly minutiae of lived experience to converse with, and contest, abstract disciplinary theories and categories? In this practice-intensive seminar, we explore ethnographic and other qualitative fieldwork methods with specific attention to their potential to subvert, generate, and extend understandings of politics and power. Readings draw on exemplary political ethnographies and narrative journalism as well as discussions of methodology and method in political science, sociology, and anthropology. Participants will have the opportunity to craft and conduct locally based ethnographic research projects related to their primary areas of interest and will be expected to make significant weekly commitments to field research. The seminar is intended as preparation for students planning to conduct independent fieldwork for their MA or PhD research, but those interested in the epistemological, political and ethical implications of studying power from below are also welcome. 

Arts-Based Qualitative Research Methods (EDUC 797G) - 3 credits

Sally Campbell Galman

This course will provide a basic introduction to and survey of arts-based research methods in the social sciences for students already familiar with qualitative methods generally and ethnographic methods specifically. In this course, we will explore techniques in visual, performance/movement, and creative writing methods with an eye toward developing and exercising creativity in our work as qualitative researchers. Students will develop an understanding of the theoretical and practical foundations of arts-based research and will be able to critically assess the appropriate application of arts-based work. Students will create a folio of visual and performative artistic explorations of their existing body of qualitative data. Students are required to have completed at least one qualitative methods course and should come to class with a body of their own qualitative data with which to work. We will work together to build a critical and supportive community for arts-based work through our time together.

Qualitative Data Analysis (EDUC 797A) – 3 credits

Sally Campbell Galman

In this course, we will learn about and practice analytic techniques for use with qualitative data. This is a hands-on, practical course that combines readings with workshop-style seminars. You will work with your own materials from mini-studies you have conducted in previous qualitative methods seminars or with approved data gathered prior to class. While you will practice a data analysis sequence-based largely on Grounded Theory, you will also gain experience with other forms of data analysis, including arts-based data analysis. Students will also have an opportunity to see and learn about the data analysis procedures favored by faculty members, who will be coming in as guest speakers. The course culminates with a mini-poster session of completed works.

Qualitative Research Methods (ANTH 635 / SPP 636) - 3 credits

Krista Harper

Qualitative research methods, including ethnography, provide essential tools for applied, client-based research. Today’s public institutions and community organizations operate in complex societies and serve an increasingly diverse set of constituents and stakeholders. Anthropological research provides tools for understanding diverse  perceptions, practices, and social problems in cultural and historical context. The centerpiece of this course is a team research project here in western Mass: students will work together to design a research project, conduct field research with a partner organization, organize and analyze data, and present research findings in two ways: 1) a team poster or multimedia presentation that presents findings and offers recommendations for the partner organization and 2) an individual final research portfolio and written analytic summary. We will read texts related to the specific topical area of the semester’s research project. Students will learn key concepts of qualitative and ethnographic research design, participatory action research, methodological strategies, and the ethics of applied anthropological research. 

Ethnographic  Methods II (SOC 797o) - 3 credits

Millie Thayer & Fareen Parvez

This yearlong seminar offers both hands-on training in ethnographic methods, with an emphasis on the extended case method, and an opportunity to read and analyze ethnographic work situated in different epistemological and representational traditions. Students conduct their own field research over the course of two semesters, acting as participant-observers in a field site for a minimum of 4-5 hours a week, taking fieldnotes, situating the project in a body of literature, and producing a final paper at the end of the year, based on your research. We will cover technical, epistemological, ethical, representational and political issues related to the process of doing this kind of study, and will spend a number of class sessions discussing one another’s fieldwork and helping each other “make sense” of the data. Reading and other assignments will take into account the time required for fieldwork. In the fall, we will focus our attention on urban ethnography and studies that emphasize questions of class, race, gender, politics, and work, because of their historical importance for the development of the methodology. In the spring, we will read ethnographies and expand the range of topics to include international as well as US-based studies, and new trends, such as “carnal,” “embodied,” or “virtual” ethnography.

Queer Ethnographies (WGSS 691E) - 3 credits

Svati Shah    

Ethnography, the signal methodology of anthropology, is now a widespread research method, taken up by scholars across disciplines seeking to understand social processes in everyday life. Queer scholars in the United States pioneered the use of ethnographic methods within the US, arguing that queer communities constituted 'subcultures' that should be studied in their own right. This course begins with these earlier works, from the 1970s and 1980s, and will quickly move to a survey of contemporary queer ethnographic work. The course will end with a consideration of ethnographic film that addresses the everyday lives of LGBTQI people and movements from around the world. Students will come away from the course with a better understanding of the theoretical critiques that ethnography makes available for scholars of sexuality and gender, and of the history of ethnography within anthropology.