Visual Ethnography (MSc)
Learn to use a visual ethnography framework in each phase of the research process.
By using a mixed methods approach, you can present complementary but distinct studies of the chosen topic in text, image, and sound. This may include an expanded multimedia framework that combines various modes of research – including photo, video, sonic, textual, and graphic depictions. Outcomes can result in web-based and material installations, or it may entail a concerted engagement in a single mode.
By following this training programme, you are expected to concentrate on the merits of using a practice-based approach. This is gained through the development of technical skills and ethno-aesthetic sensibilities. The programme highlights the affordances enabled by audiovisual recordings that work differently than text-based ethnography. Rather than using sound and image recordings for merely illustrative reasons, you are taught how to conceptually integrate them within the aims of your thesis project.
In addition to the coursework, you develop your thesis project through intensive mentoring by your supervisor in individual and small group feedback sessions. Skills developed through coursework and mentoring are mastered through independent academic research. While the resulting thesis typically combines an article-length text with a 30-minute video, you are encouraged to consider alternative modes of inquiry and presentation.
A number of courses highlighted
The first part of the Visual Ethnography programme consists of a series of practical tutorials that are designed to bring your skills up to an advanced level both technically and conceptually. In combination with a finalised research proposal, you present a pilot project that puts theory into practice. You will conduct a study based on your own research interests and demonstrate your intended methodological approach.
After returning from the field, you participate in an intensive two-week visual ethnography ‘field school’. It's designed to transition students from the data collection phase of fieldwork to a period of intensive data analysis. You will learn to:
- Critically understand how to organize materials produced during fieldwork in order to make analytical insight more accessible;
- Explore the analytical possibilities afforded by audio-visual materials produced during fieldwork;
- Evaluate the affordances of different output options for the final thesis project.
Beginning in April, you begin to develop your final thesis outputs by using a visual ethnography framework. The Thesis Seminar aims to coach students in preparing their master thesis according to the four main criteria – argument, theory, analysis, and style.
Accordingly, you will learn to:
- Present and sustain a critical argument reflecting anthropological understanding and ethnographic knowledge in a structurally coherent manner;
- Develop an empirically driven analysis based on systematic research and critical interpretation of the place and population studied;
- Engage a series of key theoretical concepts in combination with the epistemological and ethical parameters of the chosen methodology in order to substantiate the interpretation being advanced;
- Deploy appropriate stylistic conventions: in the written portions of the thesis, this includes correct language usage, effective presentation of sections, and consistent referencing in the written portions of the thesis. In the audiovisual portions of the thesis, this includes efficient usage of editing techniques, appropriate application of audiovisual grammar, and proper inclusion of textual elements.
You complete your thesis at the beginning of the summer. Your ethnographic films and multimodal projects will be featured during a micro-festival in October of the next academic year.
Equipment and facilities
Leiden University provides access to editing facilities for course training and producing your audiovisual thesis. Access to these facilities is included in the Universities admission fee. The institute also has its own video library, and the Leiden University library provides you access to several other online media collections.
The institute has available a limited number of semi-professional HD cameras, which also include professional audio-sets. This equipment is used during training tutorials and will be distributed to students for use during their fieldwork based upon an equipment request procedure. Permission to take this equipment to the field requires passing a skills test and payment of a €150 equipment fee. In addition, you will have to show proof that you are insured for damages done to property of third persons. Alternatively, you may use their own equipment, but its suitability will need to be approved.
You will need to provide your own recording media and portable digital storage:
- At least 2 Class 10 SDHC memory cards for HD camera (at least 16GB);
- A portable hard drive (at least 1TB, USB 3.0);
- A large capacity Flashdrive (at least 16GB, USB 3.0).