autumn 2018

SVF-3101 Approaching Social Realities: Understanding Other Peoples' Life-worlds - 20 ECTS

Sist endret: 08.02.2019

The course is provided by

Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education


Tromsø |

Type of course

The course is compulsory for students admitted to the Master's programme in Visual Cultural Studies (VCS). It may not be taken as a singular course.

Course content

The course is an exploration of qualitative research methodology. An introduction to the cinematographic contribution to the production and communication of anthropological knowledge is given. The course  aims at preparing students - both conceptually and technically - to use the camera as a research tool. This implies actor inspired analytical perspectives, a focus on cinematographic language and film-form as a practice for capturing and representing social processes. Lectures on theory and methodology will deal with challenges related to fieldwork both with and without a camera.

The course consists of 4 parts:

1)"Practical and epistemological steps" will make students sensitive to various methodological challenges and to different ways of producing knowledge. This task will be approached through theoretical lectures, analysis of an ethnographic monograph, and will also be related to practical experience. During the course the students conduct several practical exercises in which Norwegian and international students work together. Through collaboration in "cross-cultural" pairs (and employing audio-visual tools) they also learn about practical cross-cultural communication.

2)"The attentive camera". Skills will be developed in the art of telling stories with images. Analyses and interpretation of a film¿s raw footage will be part of the on going learning process. Through this experience the students acquire an awareness of how different ways of filming imply different ways of looking at and representing the world; that is, social processes. The theoretical lectures on cinema language and its implications will include viewing a selection of excerpts from the early days of cinema through to examples of recent trends.

3)"Video technique" is an introduction to the camera and sound equipment. Subjects like proper handling and storage conditions of video equipment, basic functions, sound recording, video formats and advanced camera functions will be addressed. During these lectures exercises completed by students will be evaluated from a technical point of view.

4) In "Ethnographic film history" a selection of film will be screened at full length. These seminars will give an introduction to the various genres within ethnographic and documentary filmmaking and how they have been influenced by the ethnographic project. They are held in a forum format which demands active participation from the students.

5) An excursion to a local Northern Norwegian community is organized in the beginning of the semester. The excursion will give an introduction to the rural Northern Norway.

Objectives of the course

Students who successfully complete this course should have achieved the following learning outcomes:



  • know the main methodological challenges of qualitative research
  • have overview of actor oriented theories within the field of anthropology
  • know various ethnographic cinematic traditions and genres
  • know about the different steps in a research process which involves the use of the video camera
  • know different genres within the ethnographic monograph tradition                                          
  • have general knowledge of the handling  and use of the video camera, of field sound recording, of lightning for video and of image composition.



  • be able to reflect on how knowledge is situated, e.g. through the notions of insider/outsider (the concepts of emic and etic)
  • be able to analyse how different ways of filming imply different ways of looking at- and representing the world
  • be able to demonstrate an understanding of the analytic and narrative construction of an ethnographic monograph
  • be able to prepare and carry out under supervision a small research project which includes the use of a video camera
  • acquire skills in video recording, creating images that convey meaning, in various lighting and sound conditions


General competence

  • be able to implement the various research strategies presented in theoretical lectures
  • be able to acknowledge the importance and relevance of creativity and own initiatives when exploring the potentials of visual and analytical tools in the establishment of shared knowledge and reciprocal understanding
  • acquire through the acquisition of a shared ground of knowledge: (a) an insight into the building up of responsibility towards partners in the field (b)  profound consciousness of the ethics of qualitative research.
  • be able to apply the tools of filmmaking that enable not only themselves but also their field partners to express themselves.

Language of instruction


Teaching methods

Consists of lectures (approx. 50 hours), seminars (approx. 70 hours), and 5 - 6 practical exercises with individual supervision. The individual exercises will help the students to get acquainted with the camera and technical equipment.


Course attendance is compulsory, i.e. only valid absence will be approved. A minimum presence of 80 % to lectures is required. Please note that the attendance at the excursion is also compulsory.

The course has a portfolio evaluation. The following is required during the preparation of the individual portfolio.

Students are required to take part in the video exercises.

As work requirements for the course students must submit:

  • A review of a Master¿s text
  • Four video exercises
  • Project description for "mini-fieldwork" in SVF-3102

For the final exam portfolio students must submit

  • Two of the video exercises (selected by the student)
  • A paper of  5-6 pages (1600-2000 words) commenting on the methodological aspects of the videos

Marking is made according to a grading scale from A to F, where F is fail. A re-sit exam will be arranged for this course. Only the paper will be redone for the re-sit exam.


Course overlap

SVF-3101 Etnographic Film-making 1 10 stp
SVF-3101 Film Form: Re-presenting reality through the Camera 10 stp

Recommended reading/syllabus

Litteratur svf 3101

Autom 2018

Practical and epistemological steps

Alvesson M. and Sköldberg K. (2009), Introduction. In Reflexive Methodology. New Vistas for Qualitative Research. 2nd edition. SAGE Publications Inc., London. (pp.1-14) ISBN 978-1-84860-111-6 14 p

Arntsen, B. and L. Holtedahl (2005), `Visualizing Situatedness - The Role of the Audience/Reader in Knowledge Production¿, In: Engelstad, E. & S. Gerrard (eds.), Challenging Situatedness. Gender, Culture and the Production of Knowledge. Delft: Eburon, (pp. 67-83) ISBN 90 5972 068 7 17 p. 

Fredrik Barth: "Models of social organization" and "Models reconsidered", in Process and Form in Social Life. Selected Essays of Fredrik Barth. Volume I." Routledge & Kegan: London 1981. 43 p.

*Davies, C.A. (2008), Reflexive Ethnography. A Guide to Researching Selves and Others. Routledge, London (pp. 3-27, 105-128, 193-215) ISBN 10: 0-415-40902-0 70 p.

Goffman, E. (1959) The presentation of self in everyday life, Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd., (pp. 17-76). ISBN 0-385-09402-7 59 p.

Grimshaw, A. and Ravetz, A. (2009) Rethinking observational cinema. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Vol. 15, No. 3, pp 538-556. 19 p.

Grønhaug, R. (1975) Macro Factors in Local Life. Social organization in Antalya, Southern Turkey. Part of Magister dissertation in Social Anthropology, University of Bergen, pp. 1-36 36 p.

Henley, P. (2004), Putting Film to Work. Observational Cinema as Practical Ethnography. In Pink, S. Alfonso, A. (eds.) Working Images - Methods and Media in Ethnographic Research. Routledge, London. ISBN 0-415-30654-x 21 p.

O'Reilly, K. (2012) Ethnography as Practice. In Ethnographic Methods. Second Edition. London, Routledge. (pp. 1-27) ISBN 978-0-415-56181-5 27 p.

Shah, A. 2017. Ethnography? Participant observation, a potentially revolutionary praxis. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7 (1): 45-59

Spradley, J. (1980), Participant observation. Thomson Learning, U.S. (pp.3-12, 26-72) ISBN 0-03044501-9 57 p.

Stoller, P. (1989), The Taste of Ethnographic Things. The Senses in Anthropology. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, (pp. 3-34). ISBN 0-8122-1292-4 32 p. 

@Xu, K. (2013), Theorizing difference in intercultural communication: A critical dialogic perspective. Communication Monographs, 80:3, 379-397. 18 p.

427 pages 



Films and literature ¿Vengsøya-project¿:

¿Lets build a waterfall¿ ¿ (Waage and Førde) 2015

¿Birds Way¿ (2009) Numescu and Trencenyi

¿Uncle Oddvar and Bølgen¿ (Anne Katriina Pedersen), 2012

¿A living life¿ Aylin Desiree (2015)


Literature on Local community

Mobilising Resistance; The Transformative Powers of Storytelling  

A. Førde and T. Waage, Department of Social Sciences, UiT the Arctic University of Norway  (in press, 15 pages)


The Symbolic Construction of Community, 1985, Anthony P. Cohen, Open University Press. (119 pages), Anthony P. - Symbolic Construction of Community Key Ideas 1985.pdfhttp://, Anthony P. - Symbolic Construction of Community Key Ideas 1985.pdf,%20Anthony%20P.%20-%20Symbolic%20Construction%20of%20Community%20Key%20Ideas%201985.pdf


Will migrant workers rescue rural regions? Challenges of creating stability through mobility, (2018) Aure, Førde and Magnussen, in  Journal of Rural studies Volume 60, 2018, Pages 52¿59.) 7 pages

The community: a missing link of fisheries management, 2002, Svein Jentoft, Marine Policy (24) 53-59 6 p

147 pages

The attentive camera 

* Barbash, I. & Taylor, L. (1997), Cross-Cultural Filmmaking. A Handbook for Making Documentary and Ethnographic Films and Video. University of California Press. Berkeley (pp. 1-11, 34-130, 327-368) ISBN 0-520-08760-7 148 p. 

Iversen, G. (2010) Added Value: The Role of Sound in Documentary Film Theory and Visual Anthropology. In Iversen and Simonsen (eds.) Beyond the Visual. Sound and Image in Ethnographic and Documentary Film. The NAFA series, Vol. 5. Intervention Press. Højbjerg, Denmark. ISBN 0907-2454 17 p.

Rabiger, M. (2009), Directing The Documentary, 5th Edition. Focal Press (pp 36-50) ISBN 978-0-240-81089-8 14 p. 179 pages

Ethnographic film history ¿ the challenge of conveying ethnographic knowledge

*Grimshaw, A. and Ravetz, A. (2009), Observational Cinema. Anthropology, Film and the Exploration of Social Life. Indiana University Press, Bloomington (pp. ix-50,79-110). 95 p.

@ Grimshaw, A (1995) Conversations with Anthopological Filmmakers: Melissa Llewelyn-Davies. Prickely Pear Press. 60 p.

@ Fijn, N. (2012) Discussions between Gary Kildea and David MacDougall. (pp. 37-71). 35 p.

@ Coover, R (2001) Worldmaking, Metaphors and Montage in the Representation of Cultures: 

Cross-Cultural Filmmaking and the Poetics of Robert Gardner¿s Forest of Bliss. 

In Visual Anthropology 14:4 415-433 28 p

Henley, P. (2009) Chronicle of a Violent Game. In The Adventure of the Real: Jean Rouch and the Craft of Ethnographic Cinema. Chicago, University of Chicago Press (pp. 145-175). 21 p. 

Loizos, P. (1993) Innovation in ethnographic film. From innocence to self-consciousness 1955-1985, Manchester, Manchester University Press.

- Constructions from real lives: biographies and portraits (p. 67-90).

- Robert Gardner in Tahiti, or the rejection of realism (p. 139-168). 52 p.

Martínez, W. (1996) Deconstruction of the "Viewer": From Ethnography of the Visual to Critique of the Occult. In Crawford and Hafsteinsson (eds.) The Construction of the Viewer. Proceedings from 

NAFA 3. Intervention Press, Højbjerg, Denmark. 31 p.

@ Marks, M (1995), Ethnography and Ethnographic Film: From Flaherty to Asch and after. In American Anthropologist Vol 97. No.2 (June 1995) pp 339-347 8 p.

*Nichols, B. (2010), `Introduction to Documentary.2nd Edition. Indiana University Press, Bloomington (pp. 142-211). 70 p.

@ Rothman, W: (1997) Chronicle of a Summer. In Documentary Film Classics. Cambridge University Press . 38 p.

Stoller, P. (1992) `Les Maîtres Fous¿. In The Cinematic Griot. The Ethnography of Jean Rouch. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press (pp. 145-160). 16 p.


Suhr, C. and Willerslev, R. (2012) Can Film Show the Invisible? The Work of Montage in Ethnographic Filmmaking. Current Anthropology. Vol 53(3) 24 p.


Magnus Lyngra

Rådgiver, fellestjeneste for opptak
Telefon: +4777644174


Trond Waage

Associate professor, Visual Anthropology
Telefon: +4777646247