Amsterdam, Netherlands

Hands-On Anthropology and Ethnographic Storytelling

when 4 July 2020 - 20 July 2020
language English
duration 3 weeks
credits 3 EC
fee EUR 1150

Ethnography or what Clifford Geertz called ‘deep-hanging out’ (1998) is becoming an increasingly popular research method among the main social science disciplines like anthropology and sociology. Ethnography provides a unique perspective which helps to explain the complexities of our everyday lives. This course will present such complexities in an exciting, and accessible manner, so as to keep the content engaging. The bulk of the course is based on the combination of storytelling with ethnographic methodologies and theory. The multidisciplinary approach will help students to think outside the box regarding how to convert collected data, observations, and field notes into enticing stories that are both scientifically convincing and socially relevant.

This course stresses learning through the lens of through the practice of storytelling, with regards to anthropology. Practical anthropology brings together reflexivity and academic research to show how students can turn their field-notes and observations into coherent narratives which are scientifically valid.

Students of the course will work closely with artists, social workers and practitioners, discussing both methodologies and writing styles. Then, students will do a short piece of coursework, under the supervision of the course coordinator, before starting to write their ethnographic stories. The students will be guided during writing workshops and nature walks all the while learning how to incorporate sensory elements and develop their storytelling skills.

The students will learn how to weave narratives with an anthropological perspective by way of ethnographic storytelling, but without reducing the world into a construct of their imaginations. This aspect of the course highlights the political importance narrative and storytelling by encouraging students to remain culturally sensitive regarding the stories they gather from their interviewees and correspondence.

Practical 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). It will also set you up to present findings through creative writing, photo essays, and oral storytelling.

Amsterdam is one of the better places to practice the methodologies taught in this course. As one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, and home to people of 180 nationalities, there are plenty of fascinating personal stories to tackle here. Students will have the opportunity to hear stories from guest speakers and also ask questions to better understand how their stories should be conveyed in a culturally and ethically sensitive manner. Working with experienced ethnographers and creative writers, students will learn to construct narratives in collaboration with interlocutors. In other words, this is the process of transforming lived experiences into creative stories with an academic appeal.

It goes without saying, this is a highly practical course requiring your active participation throughout. It is organised by the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology which invites different nonacademic partners every year to VU Amsterdam to be involved in this course.

Course leader

Dr. Younes Saramifar

Target group

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.

Course aim

At 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.

Credits info

3 EC
Contact Hours: 45
Do you want to make the most out of your summer? You can combine this course with a course in session 2 to create a 4-week summer school.

Fee info

EUR 1150: The tuition fee includes:
• Airport pick-up service
• Welcome goodie bag
• Orientation programme
• Course excursions
• On-site support
• Emergency assistance
• Transcript of records after completion of the course

An early bird discount of €150 is available for students who apply and pay before 15 March, and students from VU Amsterdam as well as from exchange partner universities will receive a €250 discount. You apply for the discount simply by indicating that you are currently a student at VU Amsterdam or at a partner university in the online application.

There are also discounts for students who attend multiple sessions, combine 2 courses and receive a €200 discount and combine 3 to receive a €300 discount. All courses include excursions. We will also organize trips and excursions as part of our social programme, which is a great way to get to know your fellow students and learn more about Amsterdam and the Netherlands. The social programme is not included in the tuition fee.

Furnished accommodation is available. Various housing options will be offered.


VU Amsterdam Summer School offers three kinds of scholarships: the Academic Scholarship, the Photographer Scholarship and the Vlogger/Videographer Scholarship. More information can be found on the VU Amsterdam Summer School website.