Program in Ethnographic Studies



  • John W. Borneman

Executive Committee

  • Mark R. Beissinger, Politics
  • Amy B. Borovoy, East Asian Studies
  • Mitchell Duneier, Sociology
  • Judith Hamera, Lewis Center for the Arts
  • Carolyn M. Rouse, Anthropology, ex officio
  • Daniel I. Rubenstein, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
  • J. Nicole Shelton, Psychology
  • Susan L. Sugarman, Psychology
  • Stacy E. Wolf, Lewis Center for the Arts
  • Deborah J. Yashar, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs

Sits with Committee

  • Jeffrey D. Himpele
  • Derek B. Lidow
  • Yi-Ching Ong
  • Evan Schneider
  • Trisha Thorme
For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Program Information

Note: The Program in Ethnography will continue to award certificates to students in the Class of 2021, but will not accept additional students in anticipation of the Program's decommissioning effective AY 2021-2022.

What is ethnography?

Ethnography is hands-on learning about people in their communities, shaped by the recognition of cultural diversity both at home (wherever that may be) and abroad. Relevant wherever people are relevant, ethnography is a qualitative research method central to knowing the world from the standpoint of its social relations. It is also a distinctive method of representing that knowledge effectively in writing. Ethnography is the anthropologist's interpretive approach to the study of culture - an approach that requires intensive ethnographic fieldwork, deep engagement with critical social theories, and historical analysis.

Ethnography is as useful for work in the natural sciences and engineering as it is integral to the social sciences and humanities, relating to many forms of academic and personal experience: studying abroad, doing international internships, conducting independent research, or engaging in community service. Students of ethnography learn to recognize, read, and evaluate qualitative evidence; apply their insights to everyday life; and think critically about society across diverse cultural fields at their sites of study, service, and research. 

What can I expect to learn?

The Department of Anthropology offers undergraduate students in all divisions the opportunity to learn how to use ethnography as a supplement or complement to their department concentration or certificate studies. Students learn how to apply ethnographic methods and ethics as additional resources during study abroad, internships, and independent research. As students return to campus from the field (international or U.S.-based), skills learned from ethnographic studies help them integrate their experience "away" with their academic work at Princeton. In this way, ethnographic studies may enrich students' experience within their own fields of study, or just deepen their personal appreciation of the human dimensions of globalization and other aspects of the modern world.

What does the program offer? 

A pair of core courses on key concepts and ethnographic research methods and ethics, topical courses on methods and cultural analysis, and supplemental advising support by student initiative for an ethnographic component in a student's independent research in their department of concentration. There is no formal program admission. The program does not offer certification.


To engage in ethnographic study, any student is welcome to take the Department of Anthropology's core methods courses at any stage of the student's course of study at Princeton. The two core courses are required for Anthropology concentrators and will provide opportunity for students concentrating outside Anthropology to develop ethnographic sensibilities and acquire relevant skills. Non-Anthropology majors may take either or both courses in any order.

  • ANT 300 Ethnography, Evidence and Experience, offered each fall term. The course develops concepts relevant to planning for and analyzing and writing up ethnographic research.
  • ANT 301 The Ethnographer's Craft, offered each spring term. The course introduces students to the practical aspects of ethnographic research, including research ethics, and is designed to support students' development of a research proposal for ethnographic research.

Concentrators in all departments are welcome to take these and other topical courses offered by the Department of Anthropology.

Ethnographic research 

Drawing on the diverse methods introduced in ANT 300, ANT 301, and certain topical courses, students are prepared to include ethnographic research as a methodological approach to their independent work in any concentration. Department of Anthropology faculty are available during office hours to help these students as supplemental advisers during their planning of ethnographic fieldwork. Prior to beginning their fieldwork, students must demonstrate proficiency in the relevant field or contact language and acquire Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for research projects involving human subjects, if applicable. Students should plan to seek principal investigator support from a faculty member in their department of concentration when applying for IRB approval.

Ethnographic writing 

After fieldwork, Department of Anthropology faculty may also provide supplemental advising, by a student's initiative, if an anthropological theoretical approach would be helpful to the student when analyzing and writing up the research.

Department of Anthropology

Students interested in and participating in this ethnographic studies program are also welcome to choose Anthropology as department of concentration.