CULANTH 290S-30: Ethnojournalism

Fall 2020

Instructor: Margaret L. Brown

With the proliferation of digital audio and text-based storytelling outlets, there are more opportunities for researchers to share our work with a broad public audience. This is especially true for those who engage in ethnographic research, which yields rich descriptions of the textures of human social life along with the researcher’s ability to connect specific behaviors and events to larger contexts and structures.

Alongside these opportunities also come new sets of challenges. If the product of ethnographic research is no longer a traditional academic research paper intended to be read by course instructors or other academics, who are the intended audiences, and how should awareness of that audience affect the form of the final product?  How do authors establish legitimacy and demonstrate our expertise in the absence of scholarly citations and the types of detailed accounts of research methods usually embedded in academic publications? What ethical considerations need to be taken into account when academic researchers cross into traditionally journalistic domains? How do we, journalists and academics alike, fulfill our commitments to advance knowledge while also honoring our commitments to protect vulnerable populations? What habits of reading, writing and listening do we need to develop to become better storytellers?

In this seminar, students will conduct close reading of and listening to the work of research-based storytellers and also meet with accomplished professionals invited by the Forum for Scholars and Publics and collaborating departments at Duke. Students will produce the components of a longform story that puts an event or set of events in a context that illuminates larger social and cultural processes and meanings. This will include the following:

  1. Selection of a story topic that allows for exploration of a person or event (people or events) that can be placed in a larger context for broader analysis
  2. On-site observation, attentive listening, note-taking, interviewing and sound recording (as appropriate)
  3. Outline of the proposed project
  4. 1000-1500 words of edited and polished text
  5. Selection of 4-5 images that will enrich the text that demonstrate an understanding of how images and text work together
  6. Pitch of 400-500 words that the student could submit to a long-form outlet for narrative research-based writing
  • DOCST 290S-01
  • POLSCI 390S-1-01
Curriculum Codes