autumn 2021
SVF-3101 Approaching Social Realities: Understanding Other Peoples' Life-worlds - 20 ECTS

Last changed 22.10.2021

Type of course

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

Course overlap

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

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.


  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 20
  • Course code: SVF-3101