Becoming Ethnographers

Hello everybody,

The next several posts will include the lesson plans we used for the UA partnership with the Tuscaloosa Magnet School. This semester the classes were taught by Taylor Burbach, Meghan Steel, and Erica Schumann, with the direction of graduate student Greg Batchelder. Enjoy!

Week 2: Cultural Anthropology and EthnographyWP_20140923_004

Activity: Becoming Ethnographers

Discussion: How do we study culture?

  1. Review
    1. What is culture?
    2. Why is it important?
  2. Why and how do we study other cultures?
    1. Cultural Anthropology: the branch of anthropology that studies modern humans
    2. Ethnography: the way that anthropologists study and teach others about cultures
  3. Do we always understand other people’s cultures?

Independent practice:

Students will divide into clans. Each clan will select informants and 1 ethnographer per group for each group, and then send that ethnographer out to observe another clan’s culture using the Ethnographer’s Guide.

After interviewing other clans, students will tell us what they learned about each clan.

Clan defense to discuss errors of interpretation.


How do anthropologists learn about culture?

Anthropologists learn about cultures by engaging different groups of people, asking questions, writing down their answers, and then thinking about the best way to understand behavior. Since anthropologists only work with the cultures they study for a limited amount of time, it is impossible to learn everything there is to know. However, anthropologists can learn about culture by understanding why people do the things that they do. We can also look at how culture change over time, because we know that it does change relative to a number of factors.

Possible topics:

What are some factors that may cause culture to change?

Do we automatically understand someone else’s culture?

What makes it hard to get it right?

Would an informant ever misdirect an ethnographer? If so, why?

When conducting ethnography, what is important for making make sure that your interpretation is correct? (good questions, good informants, coming at with an open mind, etc.)

Comparison of clans: Which were the most alike? Which were different?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *