Teaching Ethnographic Methods for Cultural Anthropology: Current Practices and Needed Innovation

Abstract

Historically, ethnographic methods were learned by cultural anthropology students in individual research projects. This approach creates challenges for teaching in ways that respond to the next generation’s calls to decenter anthropology’s White, heteropatriarchal voices and engage in collaborative community-based research. Analyzing syllabi from 107 ethnographic methods training courses from the United States, we find the tradition of the “lone researcher” persists and is the basis of ethnographic training for the next generation. There is little evidence of either active reflection or team-based pedagogy, both identified as necessary to meet career opportunities and diversification goals for the wider field of cultural anthropology. However, we also find that, by centering the completion of largely individual research projects, most ethnographic methods courses otherwise adhere to best practices in regard to experiential and active learning. Based on the analysis of syllabi in combination with current pedagogical literature, we suggest how cultural anthropologists can revise their ethnographic methods courses to incorporate pedagogy that promotes methodologies and skills to align with the needs of today’s students and communities.

Published
2022-03-17