Colchester, United Kingdom

Political Ethnography: Method, Sensibility, Writing

online course
when 29 July 2024 - 2 August 2024
language English
duration 1 week
credits 4 EC
fee GBP 492

Learn the fundamentals of political ethnography, exploring methods, writing, research design, quality, and ethics, while gaining practical experience studying politics and power in diverse social and political contexts.

Need to Know

You do not need to have prerequisite knowledge to attend this course, but a few things are worth noting:

1. The course is intensive in both reading and practice and requires considerable engagement from participants. It is conceived with the intent of collectively exploring what ethnographic research into politics and power looks like – in theory and in practice. Readings should be completed ahead of sessions and participants need to be willing to put in extra time for the observation and writing exercises. Like any method, ethnography can only be learnt by being done.

2. The course may be especially relevant for students working on a research project that involves, either, fieldwork, or another kind of interpretive engagement with primary data sources. However, anyone interested in the epistemological, political and ethical implications of studying power through immersion and close empirical observation is most welcome to enrol.

In Depth

Political ethnography is a broad, interdisciplinary research strategy that seeks to generate contextual knowledge about social and political worlds based on the immersion of the researcher into those worlds. Researchers working in an ‘ethnographic key’ (Longo & Zacka 2019) commit themselves to ‘being there’ and ‘getting close’ to everyday mess and mundanity to put the ‘life’ back into everyday life and the ‘social’ back into social science. As a mode of analysis, ethnography eschews unitary and one-sided interpretations, and its goal is often to complexify rather than to simplify existing arguments and assumptions. As a scholarly practice, ‘ethnography’ can stand for many things: a method, an attitude, a written record, a feeling, a tool, and a thing. Definitions range from calling ethnography a ‘way of seeing’ (Wolcott 2008), a ‘writing genre’ (Clifford & Marcus 1986), or a ‘practice of representing’ (van Maanen 1988 [2011]); to describing it as a form of research ‘from the body’ (Wacquant 2015), and ‘the most human of [all] methods’ (Yanow & Schwartz-Shea 2018).

Over the last years, ethnographic methods have become increasingly popular in political science and international relations, where they are used to study international relations, politics, and power ‘from within’ and ‘from below’. Yet, ethnography’s place and role in our discipline remains contested. While some embrace ethnographic ways of seeing and its promise to bring the lived experience of real people back into our analyses, others criticize ethnography for its naïve empiricism, ethical dilemmas and, apparent inability to produce generalizable insights.

This short course will provide you with a space to learn about and experiment with what it means to study politics and power ethnographically.

Course Structure
The course is structured as a seminar involving three components:
1. Insights and overview of relevant debates and literature from the lecturer.
2. Application of content of the course to your own research plans and projects and group discussion thereof.
3. Practical methodological and writing exercises.

Each course day will blend these three components, with short breaks in between individual sessions.

How the course will work online

Live classes will be held daily for three hours on Zoom, allowing you to interact with both the instructor and other participants in real-time.

Over the duration of the course, it will be possible to have one-on-one consultations with your instructor, which will offer an additional opportunity for feedback and guidance on your research project.

Course leader

Kristin Eggeling is Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen. She researches, teaches, and writes about international politics, diplomacy, global tech policy and qualitative and ethnographic methods in IR.

Target group

Advanced students, researchers, and professional analysts.

Course aim

This course runs over five half-days and includes the following topics:

Day 1: What is ethnography and what is political about it?

Day 2: Ethnographic methods

Day 3: Ethnographic writing

Day 4: Design, quality, and ethics of ethnographic research

Day 5: Controversies and futures of ethnographic research in political science

Purpose of the course
1) Knowledge
- Describing and explaining the standards of ethnographic research
- Applying the key concepts and practices of ethnographic work
- Understanding the value and limits of ethnographic research
- Accounting for relevant debates in the field

- Designing and conducting ethnographic research
- Comparing ethnographic research to other forms of inquiry
- Evaluating ethnographic knowledge claims
- Producing and handling ethnographic data
- Writing ethnographic fieldnotes and texts

3) Competences
- Strengthening critical thinking by reading ethnographically
- Acknowledging and identifying the politics of knowledge claims
- Developing ethnographic sensibilities for the complexity of social and political life
- Evaluating and relating ethnographic studies to other social scientific traditions

Credits info

4 EC
You can earn up to four credits for attending this course.
3 ECTS credits – Attend 100% of live sessions and engage fully with class activities.
4 ECTS credits – Attend 100% of live sessions, engage fully with class activities and complete a post-class assignment.

Fee info

GBP 492: ECPR member - check whether your institution is a member here:
GBP 985: ECPR non-member


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