ANTH4720 – Searching ethnographic form: About the boundaries of writing about the boundaries of our world

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course is designed for Master’s students with grounding in anthropology or other humanities, preparing their own first substantial ethnographic project. It assumes previous anthropological reading during the Master's programme or elsewhere. The course focuses on ethnographic writing as creative, poetic or literary form, and starts with close reading of literary texts by anthropologist and unconventional ethnographic prose before moving on to contemporary texts that provoke or rub against conventional expectations towards scholarly and in particular «social science» writing. The rest of the course will consist of writing exercises: students will produce short texts – guided by specific tasks – and comment on each others’ texts.

Learning outcome



  • Familiarity with ethnographic writing that experiment with literary and poetic forms and moves beyond conventional social science representation.
  • Understanding possibilities and limitations of literary and poetic writing in relation to anthrpological theory and analysis.


  • Capacity to consider and appreciate ethnography as creative texts.
  • Ability to critically engage with genre-challenging ethnographic styles.
  • Ability to experiment with literary forms of ethnographic writing.
  • Openness to experiment with ethnographic forms in fieldnotes and thesis.
  • Ability to carry out peer review.

General competence

  • A qualified personal position towards ethnographic writing styles.
  • Enhanced attention to language and form in academic text production, transferable to other writing and reading tasks beyond the studies.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Students must be admitted to the Master's programme in Social Anthropology, or to the Master specialisation in didactics for social science in the Teacher Education Programme (Lektorprogrammet).


Recommended previous knowledge

This course is designed for MA students in social anthropology. We recommend having studied social anthropology at university level before enrolling in this course.


Teaching will consist of a combination of lectures and online conversations, writing exercises ad in-class student presentations and discussions, including peer reviews of each other’s texts


Portfolio exam.

In addition to one mandatory oral presentation, each student must hand in 8 short texts in total in the course of the semester (max 500 words/1 page each): 4 short texts summarising and commenting on one ethnographic author (drawing on a creative ethnographic text and a secondary text or reflection), and 4 short ethnographic writing experiments. The course leader will provide feedback on each text.

For the exam, students choose 4 of these texts (2 from each part of the course), which they can edit based on feedback, and submit by a fixed date.

Language of examination

You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

The overall mark is the average of the 4 submitted texts.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Spring 2021


Spring 2021

Teaching language