Period of duration of course
Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Political Science and Sociology"
Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Transnational Governance"
Optional for the 4th and 5th year students of the MA Programme in "Political and Social Sciences"
Overview of the course: This course explores some key methods for fieldwork research in political and social science. We will consider the ethnographic approach and some of the theoretical, practical and ethical challenges it poses as well as some fundamental concepts (e.g. positionality, relationality and reflexivity). Among the main methods used in fieldwork-based research we will focus on interviewing, participation, and observation. Participants will learn to use fieldwork as a unique resource to effectively (co-)produce knowledge for social science research. Participants are requested to read selected ethnographic work and they are strongly encouraged to share doubts and ideas from their own research projects.
Course format: The course is articulated into eight seminars. Each session will feature an introduction for students to present readings and to share reflections also on their own research as relevant. The instructor will then discuss some more in-depth aspects. A group discussion will follow before ending the seminar. On some occasions we will engage in practical exercises to stimulate ethnographic thinking. Please, be aware that the course demands a substantial amount of readings. Participation in the seminars is compulsory. Two classes will see the participation of guest speakers.
Requirements: Master (40%) and PhD students will be evaluated through their attendance and active participation in class. Master students must produce a final paper of 2,000 words (references included). Together with the instructor they will decide whether to write a review of one ethnographic work or a paper on one of the topics covered during the course (60%). Final papers will be marked on a 30-point scale. The paper can be written in English or Italian and must be delivered by July 2, 2023. PhD students are not required to write a paper as the instructor will only determine whether they have passed (or failed) the course. PhD students willing to write their term paper on a topic of the course, must consult the instructor in advance and also agree on a topic. Term papers should be between 5,000 and 6,000 words (references included) and are due before September 15, 2023. More detailed information on the requirements of the course will be discussed on the first day of class.
Session 1. Introducing the course and ethnographic methods
(Tuesday, April 4th, 3-6pm)
Introduction to the course, the main text and discussion of the potentials and limits of ethnography as a scientific method. We will also make more detailed plans for future classes and presentations.
Pachirat, Timothy. 2018. Among Wolves. New York: Routledge. Intro and Act 1, 2 3
Brodkin, Evelyn Z. "The ethnographic turn in political science: reflections on the state of the art." PS, Political Science & Politics 50.1 (2017): 131.
Luhtakallio, Eeva, and Nina Eliasoph. "Ethnography of politics and political communication: Studies in sociology and political science." The Oxford Handbook of Political Communication, Oxford, Oxford Handbooks Online (2014): 1-11.
Schubotz, D. (2019). Participatory research: Why and how to involve people in research. Sage. Ch 1
Additional reading assigned for class participation
Goffman, Alice 2015. On the Run. New York: Picador
Autesserre, Soverine. 2014. Peaceland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Boo, Katherine. 2012. Behind the Beautiful Forevers. New York: Random House
Duneier, Mitchell, 1999. Sidewalk. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Ho, Karen. 2009. Liquidated. Durham: Duke University Press
Scott, James. 1985. Weapons of the Weak. New Haven: Yale University Press
Pachirat, Timothy. 2011. Every Twelve Seconds. New Haven: Yale University Press
Tsing, Anna. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World. Princeton: Princeton
Vitebsky, Piers. 2005. The Reindeer People. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company
Wacquant, Loic. 2003. Body and Soul. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Session 2. Knowledge and the field
(Thursday, April 6th, 10am-12pm)
Focus on interpretative fieldwork: Description, prediction and interpretation, Ethnography between observation and participatory research.
Pachirat, Timothy. 2018. Among Wolves. New York: Routledge. Acts 4 and 5
Schubotz, D. (2019). Participatory research: Why and how to involve people in research. Sage. Ch 2
Session 3. Pre-structuring the field: Knowledge, Power and ethics. With the participation of a guest speaker Guendalina Simoncini
(Thursday, April 13th, 10am-1pm)
Delimiting the field through pre-structured knowledge
Before entry: Material conditions, cultural and political context, customs
Ethical consideration and positionality,Feminist views of power relations in the fieldwork
Managing expectations and realities: How to cope with changes in fieldwork
Pachirat, Timothy. 2018. Among Wolves. New York: Routledge. Acts 4 and 5
England K (1993) Getting Personal: Reflexivity, Positionality, and Feminist Research, The Professional Geographer 46(1): 80-89
Schubotz, D. (2019). Participatory research: Why and how to involve people in research. Sage. Ch 4
Session 4. Entering the field: Field-based knowledge production and use. With the participation of a guest speaker Guendalina Simoncini
(Tuesday, April 18th, 10am-1pm)
Techniques of entering in sensitive field and connect with people
Conflict-sensitive approach in sensitive fieldwork - ethic and do-no-harm strategies
How to prepare for interviews
Existing Challenges: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, Institutional
Pachirat, Timothy. 2018. Among Wolves. New York: Routledge. Act 5
Bondy, C. (2012). How did I get here? The social process of accessing field sites. Qualitative Research, 13(5), 578–590
Daniel, J. (2020) Fieldwork, Feelings and Failure to Be a (Proper) Security Researcher in Kušić and Záhora , Fieldwork as Failure.
Session 5. Moving with the field: Participatory Observation
(Thursday, April 20th, 10am-1pm)
Overview of participatory observation and participatory action research.
Schubotz, D. Participatory research: Why and how to involve people in research. Sage, 2019. Ch 5 e 6
Reed-Danahay: Participating, Observing, Witnessing.” The Routledge Companion to Contemporary Anthropology. Routledge, 2017. 73–87
Majic, S. (2017). Participating, Observing, Publishing: Lessons from the Field. PS: Political Science & Politics, 50(1), 103-108. doi:10.1017/S1049096516002249
Session 6. Moving within the field: interviews, Surveying participants and Elites Interviewing. With the participation of a guest speaker Siresa Lopez Berengueres
(Thursday, April 27th, 10-1pm)
Individual interviews, Group discussions. Online interviews. Elite interviews
Schubotz, D. Participatory research: Why and how to involve people in research. Sage, 2019. Ch 7
Mikecz, Robert. "Interviewing elites: Addressing methodological issues." Qualitative inquiry 18.6 (2012): 482-493.
Thunberg, S., & Arnell, L. (2021). Pioneering the use of technologies in qualitative research–A research review of the use of digital interviews. International journal of social research methodology, 1-12.
Session 7. Meeting
After Field work: Critical reflection: positionality, relationality and reflexivity
(Thursday, May 4th, 10am-1pm)
In the last session, we will not deal with aspects of data analysis, interpretation and writing (we will have a specially designed seminar ‘after fieldwork’ for this), but discuss possible ethical considerations of your own research findings and your own –self-critical approach
Pachirat, Timothy. 2018. Among Wolves. New York: Routledge. act 6
Goffman, Alice 2015. On the Run. New York: Picador. Methodological appendix: 213-263
Additional readings (optional)
Bourke, Brian. “Positionality: Reflecting on the Research Process.” Qualitative report 19.33 (2014): 1–9.
Knott, E, (2019). Beyond the Field. Ethics after Fieldwork in politically Dynamic Contexts. Perspectives on Politics 17 (1), 140-153
Students will gain a comprehensive understanding of fieldwork-based research for social and politcal phenomena.
Students will be able to consider critically some key strenghs and weaknesses of qualitative methods.
Students will attain an in-depth grasp of selected qualitative methods.
Students will be able to reflect on how to engage with fieldwork research in their topic of interest.