Detailed information about the course

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Effective and Ethical Writing Practices for Anthropologist


15-17 September


Dr. Esther Leemann, UZH


Dr. Gretchen Bakke


In this three day workshop for anthropologists we approach thesis writing with three interrelated foci: (1) The structure of a PhD thesis together with strategies for time management and constant writing, together with (2) Effective strategies and tools for building a strong argument from qualitative data and (3) Making wise decisions about key ethical issue in ethnographic writing and field research.

Writing a doctoral thesis is hard work. It is hard for different reasons for different people, but it must be done, not only so that theses emerge into completeness – and hopefully also works of great quality – but also so that students can themselves graduate into competent professionals. However, the skills that graduate students have developed over their long years in school very often fail them during their last extended hurdle-the PhD thesis. They can no longer think through their entire project before beginning it. They can no longer write in a mad dash at the end. There are few true deadlines and there is little support for modest advances. On the technical side, it is difficult to make a multipart argument and students often struggle with how to limit data collection (especially in the era of the internet). In general dissertation writing is slower, less satisfying, lonelier and the product often weaker than it has ever been. These problems are even harder for anthropologists because extended fieldwork means that they have far more data (that is way less organized) than scholars in most other disciplines.

Anthropologists also face many ethical issues both during research and while writing. How might one represent one's research subjects and their circumstances fairly? How can anonymity be maintained? What is the relationship between activism (intervention) and scholarship (objectivity)? Is it ok to write things that will make one's research subjects angry? These issues, and many others, have only been exacerbated by on-line and open-access publishing. Every decision one makes as a scholarly writer is now immediately and widely available. These issues are especially difficult for young scholars to navigate.

To aid in both the general problems of writing a doctoral thesis and the specific difficulties faced by anthropologists in this task the workshop will provide: General Skills for the successful completions of a PhD Thesis, including • How to Set up and Stick to a daily writing régime • How to Separate Writing from Research • Tools for Writing before you Know what to Say • Tools for Limiting and Managing Data • How to Make an Argument • Editing Skills to Live By • Skills for Limiting and Managing Distractions • Learning to Rest. And, Issues of particular difficulty for anthropologists, specifically: • Research ethics for ethnographic writing – in particular the problem of representing informants and their lives fairly while also not putting them in danger • Bringing theory and fieldwork together so that arguments are made both: ° in relationship to one's fieldsite (writing ethnography), and ° in relationship to anthropological knowledge more generally (writing theory) • Working from a vast, confusing (and often poorly cataloged) repository of ethnographic data, including fieldnotes, recordings, images, memories, impressions, and emotions. • The problem of how to move from qualitative data to solid claim • Writing ethically as a form of political speech, or, using your knowledge against injustice. Including considerations of genre of writing (inside and beyond the academy)

We will work together through key texts related to ethical research and writing practice and also experiment with scholarly writing in more popular genre. Students will need to have conducted some qualitative fieldwork in order to benefit from the course.





Deadline for registration 09.09.2021
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