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Anthropology Ethnographic Research Paper

The ethnographic photo-essays that students from Anthropology 380: Visual & Ethnographic Methods have submitted here are examples of how IWU anthropology students learn to conduct ethnographic research with visual media--in this case, still photography. One of the challenges students in this course face is deciphering the differences between photo-journalism, which they are more exposed to through glossy magazines such as National Geographic , and visual anthropology, a sub-field of anthropology that has its own distinct set of methods. One of the most important points of distinction is that while journalists are beholden to the "citizenry" at large, anthropologists are beholden to the community under study and their prime directive is to "do no harm" to them in any way. To uphold this modus operandi, students carefully select a community in which they are interested, spend time building rapport with members of that community, conduct ethnographic interviews, observe and participate in community events, and work with community members on all phases of the photo-essay: topic selection, image production, image selection. What results is a photo-essay produced through collaborative research methods that enhance the self-awareness of the community under study (attained through the process of visual self-representation) and a more enlightened view of the community by outsiders. In 2013, Anthropology 380 focused on the theme of immigration as part of the "Making Human Rights Real" curriculum cluster. For more information, please read the news story.


Submissions from 2016


“Don’t Cross Momma!” A Visual Representation of LGBTQI Woman Leader Jan Lancaster, Lucy Bullock '17


Sacred Partnership: A Visual Ethnographic Study of Rabbi Rebecca L. Dubowe, Anna Kerr-Carpenter '17


Women Leaders as Change Agents: Mary Campbell’s Story of Academic and Community Leadership, Raelynn Parmely '17

Submissions from 2013


American by Citizenship or American at Heart? An analysis of becoming an “American” as seen through the eyes of an Indian-American immigrant, Helen Brandt '14


Pierogies to Hamburgers: An immigration story, Madeline Cross '13


The Long Road to Becoming American: One Kenyan’s Immigration Journey Filled with Perseverance, Discrimination, and Student Visa Restrictions, Katelyn Eichinger '14


Bicultural Living: Maria Luisa Mainou’s Experience with Immigration and Cultural Change, Alicia Gummess '13


Russian-Jewish Immigration and the Life Experiences of Dr. Marina Balina: A Photo Essay, Lauren Henry '14


Snapped into Focus: Addressing the Challenges Faced by Undocumented Mexican Immigrants in the United States, Nora Peterson '14


An American who Emigrated from Poland: The Significance of Education and Family Support in the Acculturation Process, Stephanie Pierson '13

Submissions from 2012


Smile and Style: An Ethnographic Analysis of ISU's Gamma Phi Circus, Sarah Carlson '13


Building Christ-based Relationships, Disciples, and Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ at Illinois State University, Cassandra Jordan '12


When Words Fail, Music Speaks, Hannah Williams '12

Submissions from 2011


Exploring Acupuncture in the American Midwest, Shuting Zhong '11

Submissions from 2010


Luck Be A Lady: An Exploration of the Bloomington Bingo Community Through Visual Ethnographic Methods, Monica Simonin 11


Getting High: An Inside Look into College Students' Lives with Type 1 Diabetes, Amber Spiewak 11


Twin City Chess Club: a Visual Ethnographic Examination of Chess, Morgan Tarbutton 11


So/An 373 – Ethnographic Research Methods Final Papers

One of the requirements for a Sociology/Anthropology major is to take So/An 373 “Ethnographic Research Methods”. Students design and conduct their own small-group research, analyze their results and write an ethnographic research paper of their findings as their final project. Here are the final papers from the past several years.


Collaborative Community-Based Projects:

Mind the Gap – Volunteering for HealthFinders Collaborative

Farming Sustainably in Northfield – Community Dynamics and Motivations

Discovering Educational Agency – An Exploration of the School of Environmental Studies, Cornerstone Montessori School and the Minnesota Waldorf School

Campus-based Projects:

Stress and the First-Year Experience

Perceptions of Community – Understanding the St. Olaf Experience

Investigating Masculinity at St. Olaf College – A Study of Perceptions and Identities of College Males and Male Behavior

Imported Diversity at St. Olaf College – Assessing Cross Cultural Relations between International, Multicultural, and White Students

How to Make Your Resume Sparkle – Insights on Motivations and Pressures to Volunteer at St. Olaf College

Family and Community at St. Olaf College

Call Me, Maybe? – Student-Parent Value Differences and its Effects on their Communication

A Cultural Analysis on Depression at St. Olaf College – Understanding Students’ Help-Seeking Behaviors


Collaborative Community-Based Projects:

A Community Approach to Evaluating the HealthFinders’ Pura Vida Healthy Lifestyles



The Creative Class Returns to Northfield: Alumni Worker Profile

Campus-based Projects:

Integrating the Liberal Arts, Career, and Vocation: St. Olaf Student, Faculty, and Staff Perceptions and Insights Surrounding the Main Street Project

Oles’ Perception of Political Discourse on St. Olaf Campus

Perspectives on Diversity at St. Olaf College: An Ethnographic Study

Where Your Best Isn’t Good Enough: Perceptions of Mental Health and Overachievement at St. Olaf College


Collaborative Community-Based Projects:

A Strategic Analysis of the Northfield Nonprofit Sector

Bringing Theory to Practice Academic Civic Engagement at St. Olaf College

The Economic Impact of the Arts in Northfield

Campus-based Projects:

Building Community Through Traditions: Demystifying Identity Through Rituals

Invisible Boundaries: Diversity in Student Organizations

Mind, Body, Spirit: Health Perceptions at St. Olaf College

Out of Place: Culture Shock and the Reentry Experience

Reality Check: A Study of Diversity and Integration at St. Olaf College

The Relationship Between Athletics and Student Life at St. Olaf College


Collaborative Community-Based Projects:

Multinational Communities- Understanding the experiences and perceptions of Latinos in Northfield, MN

Local Food Infrastructure- Collaboration with Market Fair

The Economic Cultural and Social Importance of the Northfield Library for the City Center

Campus-based Projects:

They happen so fast! Deconstructing the Discourse of Relationships at St. Olaf College

The Norwegian Ethnic Expression at St. Olaf College

Social Rules and Relationships

Ring by Spring: An Examination of the Actuality and Perception of Young Marriage and Engagements at St. Olaf College

Minnesota Not-So-Nice: Interpersonal Conflict on Campus

How Invisible Are You: An Exploration Between the Divides of Visible and Invisible Social Groups

Getting Help: The Role of the Counseling Center in the Lives of St. Olaf Community Members

Northfield Neighbors: Attitudes and Beliefs about St. Olaf


Collaborative Community-based Projects:

The Effects of the Economic Crisis on the Northfield Library and its Booker Bus Program

An Ethnographic Analysis of the Northfield High School TORCH Program

Exploring “At Risk”: An Ethnography on an After-School Program Targeting “At-Risk” Elementary School Students in the Rural Upper Midwest

Exploring Senior Altruism in Northfield

A Study of the TORCH Collaborative Northfield Middle School

Campus-based Projects:

An Analysis of Function, Structure, and Hierarchy in the Academic Department

Backstage Pass: The Hidden Culture of Dance Technicians

The Dialogue of Race on the St. Olaf Campus

Gender, Body Image, and Working Out in Tostrud Center

The Great Conversation: Investigating a St. Olaf Tradition

The RA and JC Story: A Study of Residence Life at St. Olaf College

Student Perceptions of the St. Olaf Counseling Center


Campus-Based Projects:

Community, Surveillance, and Distinction: A Culture of Food at St. Olaf College

Dorm Drama: An Analysis of First-Year Roommate Relationships at St. Olaf College

Perceptions and Perspectives of Diversity at St. Olaf College

Perceptions of Socioeconomic Class Among Students At St. Olaf College

Sport Culture

Study of St. Olaf Choir Cultures

The Culture of Off-Campus Events

The Political Climate of St. Olaf College

The Social Construction of Depression at St. Olaf College

“Reality” and Ridiculousness: The Live Action Roleplayer Experience at St. Olaf College


Campus-Based Projects:

After Study Abroad: A Study in Personal Development

Being Out, Ole Style: The GLBT Experience at St. Olaf College

Perceptions of Leadership at St. Olaf College

Multicultural Women’s Experience at St. Olaf College

Senioritis: An Analysis of the Senior Experience at St. Olaf College

The Needs and Demands of Students as a part of the St. Olaf College Community

The Social and Academic Experience of Male St. Olaf Hockey Players

Community-Based Project:

Colleges, Cows, and Contentment: Perceptions of Northfield and the College Choice


Campus-Based Projects:

Being Muslim at St. Olaf

Ethnography of the Sociology/Anthropology Department at St. Olaf College

Fight or Flight: Multicultural Student Life at St. Olaf College

Interracial Interaction at St. Olaf: Friendship Groups

The JC Experience

Through the Looking Glass: The Social Behaviors of Christian Students at St. Olaf College

Community-Based Project:

Spheres of the Elderly: Interpreting the Lives of NRC Residents


Campus-Based Projects:

A Land of Golden Girls

A Whole New World

Consumption and Spending Patterns at St. Olaf College

Finding God Among Oles

Language Houses

Life After Popping the Bubble

The Marijuana Community at St. Olaf College

Who Can Sit at the Table?

Community-Based Project:

Goals and Dreams of Adolescent Women


Campus-Based Projects:

One Fish or No fish

Girls Can Play Too

Community-Based Projects: 

Adult ESL Learners in Northfield

Caffeine & Nicotine

VFW Post 4393

The Experience of Latino Students Attending Northfield High School

Second Language Learners in the Northfield Elementary Schools

Other Projects:

A New Paradigm of Community

Workplace Culture

The Internet as a Community

The Role of Religion in the Cambodian Immigrant Experience

The Acculturation of Cambodian Families of Different Generations

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