Ethnography of the University

A university is a microcosm of society, with its large and diverse population of students, staff and faculty; its hierarchies and habits; and the relations of power and meaning that shape everyday practices in classrooms, labs, dining halls, offices,  clubs, and residence corridors. Exclusion,  fashion, friendship, sex, competition, religion, bureaucracy, fear, faith, education  – everything happens in a university.  ANT473 invites students to devise and carry out an ethnographic research project on a topic of their choice connected to, and situated within, the University of Toronto. Class time will be used for brainstorming research ideas and possible sites, and for presenting preliminary findings for collective feedback and analysis.

The purpose of the course is to learn how to conduct an independent ethnographic inquiry, analyse data, and write it up as a contribution to knowledge. It may be published on a website (location tba). The skills you learn will be useful in any field of work you enter in future, as you will become more aware of the social and cultural milieu in which you are living and capable of examining it and reflecting upon it in a way that goes far beyond the casual and everyday.

The course is loosely based on the Ethnography of the University project at the University of Illinois. See the website for a rich archive of past student projects, some inspiring ideas and resources, and some potential angles for US/Canada comparison.  The main method we’ll use for analysis is the “extended case method” explained and illustrated in Michael Burowoy’s book Ethnography Unbound (on reserve at Robarts), and we’re going to use his teaching method too:

Visit the Ethnography of the University website here.

Read the work of students previously enrolled in this course below.

Fall 2013

White Skin and White Masquerades: The Performativity of ‘Whiteness’ at Trinity College by Alican A. Koc
This paper was published in Totem: The University of Western Ontario Journal of
Anthropology (Vol. 22:1)

Grease: The Ethnography by Kevin Manning

Fall 2011

An Orientation Toward Pleasure: Cultivating Comfort at SEC by Jane Doe

Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre by Declan Driscoll

Structuring Hierarchy: Exclusionary Practices at the Hot Yam Collective by Martyna Krezel

Ethnography of Caffiends: Can Exclusive be Inclusive? by Kate Morris

Discourses of Divinity: Secularism and Religion in the University by Dominic Nodalo

Social Distance and Fantasy in a Campus Cafeteria by Christopher Ross

Women Undergraduate Engineering Students – Striving to Become Flexible, Well-Rounded Female Engineers by Lynne Slater

Third Way in the Post Third-Way Age: Community Building of ASA and Beyond by Fan Zhang