Hands-On Anthropology and Ethnographic Storytelling

Collaborative Stories from Amsterdam
Everyone has a story to tell. For anthropologists, such accounts can reveal as much about the people and societies we study as more conventional research. But the process of collecting stories in the field and retelling them in the academic arena is littered with pitfalls. How do we ensure that our subjects are fairly represented? How do we construct a culturally sensitive narrative whilst maintaining scientific validity?
Course levelAdvanced Bachelor/Master
Session 2  
14 July to 28 July 2018  
Recommended course combination  
Session 1: Hands-on Anthropology: Role of the Ethnographer 
Session 3: Impact of an Empire
Co-ordinating lecturerDr. Younes Saramifar
Other lecturersProf. Matijs Van de Port, P Prof. Pal Nyiri, Dr Ellen Bal, Dr Ton Salman, Dr Marina de Regt, Ola Plonska, Jochem Kootstra, Dr. Younes Saramifar
Form(s) of tuitionInteractive seminars, Work groups, lectures
Form(s) of assessmentVisual presentation or ethnographic photo essay
ECTS  3 credits
Contact hours50  
Tuition fee€1150
Students and professionals in the field of social sciences and behavioural studies, humanities, Business Administration, Medical consultancy and Social work with an interest in human behaviour, fieldwork, ethnography, interviews and storytelling. If you have doubts about your eligibility for the course, please let us know. Our courses are multi-disciplinary and therefore are open to students and professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds.

This course focuses on hands-on anthropology with strong orientation toward visual storytelling and an anthropological world view is constructed. The hands-on training emphasizes on embodying the method and theory in order to extend the theoretical perception of students along their practical skills such interviewing, visual narration, use of sound and sensory data in ethnographic stories. Hand-on anthropology brings together reflexivity and academic trainings to show how students can turn their field-notes and observations into coherent narrative that are scientifically valid. 

The course begins in continuation of Hands-on anthropology Session One however, the first session is not the pre-requisite to the course. They are interdependent of each other and students can participate and enroll in the second block regardless of the first part:

The Second Session concentrates on the role of anthropology as scientific discipline and theoretical orientation in construction the world that is studied. Students learn how to weave narratives and anthropological perspective by way of ethnographic storytelling without reducing the world into construct of their imaginations. This part highlights the political importance narrative and storytelling by encouraging students to remain culturally sensitive toward the stories that are entrusted by their interviewees and correspondence. Hands-on anthropology guides you through the process of gathering stories as the basis for a scientific inquiry, using simple but effective fieldwork tools (such as mobile phones, Voice Recorder, Social Media), and presenting them through creative writing, photo essay and oral storytelling.

There can be few better places to practise this method than Amsterdam. As one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, home to people of 180 nationalities, fascinating personal stories abound here. At the heart of DAY are interactive conversational workshops at which you learn intriguing stories from practitioners and people from various walks of life. Students hear and listen stories from invited speakers and get the chance to practice and ask from them how their stories should be conveyed in a culturally and ethically sensitive manner. Working with experienced ethnographers and creative writers, you learn to construct narratives in collaboration with your interlocutors. In other words, how to turn lived experiences into creative stories with an academic appeal.

Along the way, we guide you through the process of gathering stories as the basis for a scientific inquiry, using simple but effective fieldwork tools (such as mobile phones), and presenting them through “low-tech” media like creative writing and oral storytelling.

Obviously, this is a highly practical course requiring your active participation throughout. It is organized by the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at VU Amsterdam in collaboration with social research studio Pollinize and youth theatre project Studio 52nd.

Ethnographic journey of Amsterdam and interacting with those who students don’t get meet usually. The details of the excursion will be announced according to the size of the class and their level of commitment to the ethnographic storytelling.

And the end of this course you:

  • are familiar with research methods and crafting styles in scientific inquiry.
  • have acquired fieldwork abilities and strengthened your skills in culturally sensitive research and analysis.
  • grasp the power of biography and representation embedded within stories.
  • have gained experience in collaborative storytelling and making digital visual narratives.
  • can reflect on the idea of “empowerment through participation” and address power inequalities in your research.

Students are asked to familiarize themselves with, ‘Storytelling as Social Process’ by Harness Goodwin, ‘Looking at People: Observations and Images in Being Ethnographic’ by Raymond Madden and ‘On Narrative’ by W.J.T. Mitchell. Further readings will be provided during the course.

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