Lehrprojekte

Internationalisierung der Curricula

E-Learning: Anthropological Research Methodologies

As part of the Internationalisation of the Curricula program in 2018, Dr. Jovan Maud produced four online teaching units on anthropological research methodologies in collaboration with Prof. Andrea Lauser. Using the ILIAS online teaching platform, each of these units bundles a combination of media -- from video lectures, screencasts, studio-recorded talks, podcasts, ethnographic films, and text-based assignments -- in the presentation of each topic.


Empirical research conducted by anthropologists is generally referred to as “fieldwork”. As the term suggests, the research is conducted in a “field”. But what is this field? Is it best thought of as a physical location? A social group, an organisation, or a network? Or is it an artefact of the questions that the researcher is investigating? Does it have boundaries or is it open ended? How does the researcher “enter” (and “leave”) the field? What hurdles and difficulties can be expected? In this module, we will address the questions of how an anthropological researcher decides on a topic of research and where this research will take place. As will become clear, these two questions are closely related to each other and it is usually impossible to answer one without addressing the other. The unit makes use of a video lecture by guest anthropologist, Claudio Sopranzetti, who describes the process of developing his award-winning research on motorcycle taxi drivers in Bangkok. Each unit also includes an “outlook” section which moves beyond the topic at hand to consider broader aspects of doing ethnography. Here, this unit features a “podcast” conversation between Claudio Sopranzetti and Jovan Maud on the subject of “embarrassment” in the field.

Prof. Lauser presents an introduction to the concept of 'the field' in ethnographic research in the form of a screencast.

This part is an excerpt from a video lecture given by Dr. Claudio Sopranzetti, a postdoctoral fellow at Oxford University, at Göttingen University in 2018.

You will be asked to apply the key elements of the module to the development of your own ethnographic research practice projects.

This is the 'outlook' -- a view 'behind the scenes' of research. This week, we have a 'podcast' -- a conversation between Dr. Sopranzetti and Dr. Maud about the experience of 'embarrassment' in the field.


This learning unit deals with the nature of ethnographic field research, in particular the methodology known as "participant observation". This unit focuses on the inherent (productive) tension between the two main pillars of ethnographic research: participation and observation. Although paired and interdependent, the imperatives of participating and observing bring with them different priorities and demands. It’s these two somewhat contradictory demands that mean that the researcher is always necessarily oscillating between the closeness of participation and the distance of reflection. It’s this oscillation, or moving back and forth between modes, that this unit discusses. The unit also uses excerpts from Gary Kildea’s classic film, Celso and Cora, set in the slums of Manila in the 1980s and using a highly “participatory” camera style, to help the students to visualise the process of entering a new field and slowly developing rapport with one’s interlocutors, and to appreciate the dynamic movement between participation and observation that this requires. This unit’s “outlook” includes details of a field trip conducted by Jovan Maud and Prof. Andrea Lauser to a Vietnamese lên đồng spirit medium session, together with studies of Hanoi’s University of Social Sciences and Humanities. Here, the students completing this unit can read the reflections of Vietnamese students who attended the ritual to contemplate first-hand their experiences of balancing observation and participation.

This part provides you with an overview of participant observation, in particular considering the tensions between the demands of both participating and observing in ethnographic fieldwork.

This part gives you the opportunity to take a closer look at a fieldwork context in the ethnographic film Celso and Cora.

You will be asked to apply the key elements of the module to the development of your own ethnographic research practice projects.

This is the 'outlook' - a view 'behind the scenes' of research. This week, we look at the perspectives of two Vietnamese anthropology students who untertook a fieldwork exercise.


This learning unit deals with an important aspect of ethnographic field research, the relationships that are an inevitable part of conducting participant observation. In addition to a video introduction by Prof. Lauser, the unit uses exerpts from the ethnographic film Ngat is Dead (preview), which follows the Dutch anthropologist Ton Otto, who has been adopted by a family on Baluan Island in Papua New Guinea. In the film, Otto must negotiate the hotly contested issue of the appropriate ritual response to the death of his adoptive father. The film demonstrates the important of relationships between anthropologists and their interlocutors and how negotiating such relationships is an integral aspect of conducting good ethnographic research. The “outlook” in this unit is a short account of Prof. Lauser’s fieldwork with the Mangyan in the Philippines in the 1980s. Here she discusses the various ways her presence was interpreted by the people with whom she was researching.

It provides you with an overview of why every ethnography necessarily involves developing and negotiating social relationships.

Part 2 gives you the opportunity to take a closer look at an example of the importance of fieldwork relationships in the ethnographic film Ngat is Dead.

In part 3 you will be asked to apply the key elements of the module to the development of your own ethnographic research practice projects.

This is the 'outlook'. Here you can read an account of Prof. Lauser's early fieldwork in the Philippines in the 1980s. Here she discusses the various ways her presence was interpreted by the people with whom she was researching.


This unit delves into the methodological relationship that researchers take to their subject matter, recognizing that a range of positions or postures are possible. This is not only a matter of how actively the researcher participates but The unit draws on the Anthropology of Religion, specifically Bielo’s model of four methodological postures:

1. Methodological atheism

2. Methodological agnosticism

3. Methodological ludism

4. Methodological theism

These postures refer to different ways of treating the truth claims of our interlocutors, our relationship to their reality. Do we treat it as symptomatic of deeper “social” forces, as the “methodological atheist” would, or do we take a more “playful” approach that tries to experience and appreciate the reality that we are studying? Although this model was developed for the Anthropology of Religion, we argue that it can be applied more broadly to draw attention to the fact that researchers have a choice about how they position themselves vis-a-vis their interlocutors and topic. In addition to the usual video presentation and screencast, this unit presents a series of hypothetical research topics and asks students how taking different postures would affect the approach to research.

Part 1 provides you with an overview of four methodological orientations derived from the anthropology of religion.

This part is centered on a text by anthropologist Paul Stoller, who asks how anthropology can deal with experiences that go beyond rational explanation.

You will discuss hypothetical research topics, to consider what methodological postures would be applicable and realistic.

In part 4 you will be asked to apply the key elements of the module to the development of your own ethnographic research practice projects.



Second project: Anthropological methods using non-linear storytelling

In this follow-up project in 2019, funded by Göttingen Campus QPLUS Program, Jovan developed a detailed ethnographic fieldwork simulation using the non-linear storytelling app, Twine. In this simulation, students can “play through” a fieldwork-like situation in order to reflect upon some of the methodological issues that arise. The simulation is completely text-based and highly portable. It is designed to be used in conjunction with classroom teaching, in which issues that arise out of the simulation can be discussed with other students and/or teaching staff.
This project draws on material from the ongoing On the Materiality of (Forced) Migration project that is being run between Göttingen University’s Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and Museum Friedland.