Reading Ethnographic Texts I


1. To develop the understanding and the critical analysis of ethnographic texts
2. To promote the reflexion about anthropological practice and writing in theoretical and methodological terms
3. To develop knowledge about the processes of construction and transmission of anthropological knowledge
4. To become aware of the multiplicity of themes and written practices in anthropology

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Sónia Isabel Vespeira de Almeida


Weekly - 4

Total - 168

Teaching language





Clifford, J.; Marcus, G. (eds.), 1986. Writing Culture, Berkeley: University of California Press
Gay y Blasco, Paloma; Wardle, Huon, 2007, How to Read Ethnography, London, New York: Routledge
Geertz, Clifford. 1993 [1973]. The Interpretation of Cultures, London: Fontana Press
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1979 [1955]. Tristes Trópicos, Lisboa: Edições 70
Lewis, Oscar. 1961, The Children of Sanchez, New York: Random House
Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1984 [1922].The Argonauts of the Western Pacific, Illinois: Waveland Press. Inc.
Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1989 [1967]. A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term, London: Athlone Press
Mead, Margaret. 2001 [1935]. Sex and temperament in three primitive societies, New York: Perennial
Mead, Margaret. 2001 [1977]. Letters from the Field 1925-1975, New York: Harper and Row

Teaching method

The course is organized in three types of classes:
1. Lectures
2. Reading workshops: lessons for critical reading of texts under the guidance of the teacher; practical exercises.
3. Oral presentation and discussion of texts by groups of students.

Evaluation method

30% - Written Test 1 30% - Written Test 2(60%), Oral presentation of texts + written essay by groups of students(30%), Regular attendance and active participation in class, seminars and practical exercises(10%)

Subject matter

1. The importance of ethnography in anthropology
1.1. The specificities of anthropological knowledge and of the ethnographic texts
1.2. How to read ethnographies?
2. Classic ethnographies: the invention of the field
2.1. Bronislaw Malinowski and The Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922): the invention of modern ethnography
2.2. Margaret Mead and Sex and temperament in three primitive societies (1935): north american ethnography
3. Beyond ethnography: field backstage
3.1. The Diary of Bronislaw Malinowski (1967)
3.2. Margaret Mead and Letters from the Field (1977)
4. The journey as a pretext
Claude Levi-Strauss and Tristes Tropiques (1955).
5. Ethnography and life stories
Oscar Lewis and The Children of Sanchez (1961)
6. Ethnography: Interpretation and "thick description"
Clifford Geertz and The Interpretation of Cultures (1973)
7. That damn book! The "Writing Culture" debate (1986)


Programs where the course is taught: