All members of the Urban Ethnography Lab complete a two-course sequence to become trained and versed in the ethnographic method.

1. Readings in Ethnography (SOC 388J: Readings in Ethnography)

Course description, Fall 2018, Dr. Javier Auyero:

This reading-intensive seminar has four major objectives: 1) to become familiar with some classic and contemporary ethnographies, 2) to acquaint students with the methodological tenets of ethnography, 3) to consider theoretical and epistemological issues in ethnographic research, 4) to discuss narrative strategies in ethnographic writing.

Throughout the semester will we read ethnographic texts that study different objects from a variety of theoretical perspectives. We will submit these works to a generative reading, that is, we will take the analytic, epistemological, and methodological tools these ethnographies provide to think about our own research objects.

After the first two introductory sessions, each class will be organized around a set of questions. To each text we will ask: What theory or theories are being used/refined/extended? Is the ethnographic study warranted? Is the ethnographic warrant clearly established? Are the methodological tools well delineated? Is the puzzle/enigma clearly defined? How strong/weak are the links between theoretical claims and empirical evidence? How well is the ‘native’s point of view’ captured/reconstructed? How well is the narrative organized? How is the balance between data gathered from interviews and from observations? How lively or engaging is the narrative? How do you feel as a reader?

2. Qualitative Field Methods  (SOC 388K: Field Methods or Qualitative Methods or Ethnographic Methods)

Course description, Spring 2019, Dr. Harel Shapira:

General Overview

This practice-based seminar is the second of a two-part sequence on ethnographic methods (participant observation and in-depth interviewing). Building on the first part of the sequence, Field and Observational Methods I: Readings in Ethnography (Javier Auyero, Fall semester), this semester will focus not on reading ethnography but on doing ethnography. Students will be required to engage in approximately 4 hours of ethnographic research every week during the semester. Field notes, memos, or transcriptions of interviews will be due most weeks. The overarching goal is for us to learn about conducting research by doing hands on work in Austin.

Field Site

This semester, students will choose their own fieldsite [a group/community, or location of recurrent social activity). As part of the training for this course, but also, so that you can use the data you collect (should you wish to) for future publications, you will be required to submit an IRB proposal.


On almost all weeks you will be required to do fieldwork and turn in either fieldnotes, interview transcripts, or memos addressing specific assignments that will be handed out in class. In lieu of a final paper, students will give 15-minute final presentations (in the style of ASA talks) about their research.

Organization of Class Time

Class time will be split into two parts.

Part I (3.30-4.45): I will select a sample of fieldnotes/memos/interview transcripts to circulate to the class. Class time will be spent discussing these fieldnotes, and having students provide updates on their research.

Part II (5:15-6:30): On certain weeks, you will be asked to focus your research in a particular direction, connected to the reading for that week. For example, when we read Timothy Pachirat’s Every Twelve Seconds, you will be asked to focus on non-verbal data; when we read Kristin Schilt’s Just One of the Guys?, you will be asked to focus on conducting interviews and life histories. The second part of each class session will therefore be focused on these readings and examining how the authors’ collected and analyzed their data.