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Fieldwork

We are the only UK Department to offer a residential field course to all our undergraduate students. Fieldwork is a central method of research throughout anthropology. Field courses are critical for providing students with hands-on experience of methods in both biological and social anthropology. We have developed unique opportunities for students to undertake fieldwork in our degree programmes and destinations in recent years have included Coll (Hebrides), Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Volos (Greece).

During your time on the field course, you will put into practice the knowledge you gained in Level 1. You will learn some of the skills needed for successful participant observation and ethnography, as well as collect numerical data that you can then analyse to test hypotheses. Having real-life experience of varied anthropological methods will help you decide what you would like to research in your Level 3 dissertation, as well as provide you with the specialist and transferable skills that employers value.

The field courses last around 10 days and will normally take place during the final two weeks in September, just before the start of the new academic year (just before you return to Durham to begin Level 3). If you decide to study Anthropology at Durham, you will need to keep these two weeks free. You will not have to pay extra fees to participate in the fieldwork module since these will be funded by the University, although some sites may require a top-up payment from you. If you are a joint-honours student you will be funded, provided you are not undertaking funded fieldwork in your other Department.

Testimonials

“It has been my favourite module over the last 3 years, not only because of the experience and the context in which the course took place but also thanks to the quality of the teaching”

"The field trip was amazing! Feel lucky to be part of a department which makes a trip to amazing places compulsory."

"The field course really made me feel more welcome within the department. I feel it is a good chance for lecturers and students to get to know each other, made the whole anthropology department feel more approachable."

"Fantastic module– made really close friends and the trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience 'true' anthropology."

Students outside walking and wearing hard hats

 

Field Courses - Coll, Hebrides 

The island of Coll, situated in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, is home to approximately 200 permanent residents. Based at the Hebridean Centre, close to the coast and beaches, you have plenty of opportunities to chat to local people about what it's like to live on a Hebridean island, as well as to experience the climate and wildlife of this amazing place. Our social anthropology focuses on history, environment, development and identity; while food, diet and nutrition vs energy expenditure, past and present, represent our biological foci. During the second week, we will also take a day trip to the neighbouring island of Tiree, weather permitting, for comparative purposes. We attend a ceilidh (Scots Gaelic for 'gathering') in the village hall, for which you receive lessons on the favourite Coll dance steps! In groups, you also learn to cook some great evening meals and will have the opportunity to learn to knit, as well as to take part in quiz nights and any other activities that occur on the island while we are there.

Testimonials

"I am honestly saying, this was a very satisfying, well-organised module. Many thanks to Sarah and Andrew for the great field trip."

"I really liked the community aspect of the field course, getting close with other students who I didn't previously know, and particularly getting to know the staff who were with us on the field course."

"Great way to learn how to do fieldwork, and get to know anthropology students and professors better."

Students taking photos of expansive rugged and rocky terrain

 

Field Courses – Volos, Greece

The theme of the Volos field-course in mainland Greece is ‘Urban Ethnography’. We investigate ways of doing fieldwork in urban contexts, which are larger than villages and in some ways ‘messier’ and more complicated. Our fieldwork provides the opportunity to talk to local people and engage in primary research to learn a lot about the complicated past and the troubled present of a Mediterranean country that has played a central role in key moments of recent European political history. We also explore the chronobiology of Greek life, monitoring the adaptation of our own body clocks to the physical and social jet-lag we will experience during our transition from Northern Europe to the Mediterranean and back, to reflect on how the enforced temporal patterns of daily lives in a post-industrial society interacts with their body’s circadian clock, and affects their health and wellbeing.

Testimonials

“Everything was positive. The academic staff on the Volos field course were lovely. They were very encouraging and patient. By far my favourite module. The staff taught me how to put essential Anthropological skills into practice which has furthered my understanding of Anthropology as a whole.”

"I loved going to the Volos field course, it was a very interesting and formative experience that has made more confident for my dissertation. The professors and the tutors were really good and made this field course a good experience academically and personally."

"The field course was very rewarding and allowed me to see how anthropology is applied in the real world. Getting to talk to locals about their experiences and the implications of political–economic change transcended the material we learn about in lectures and seminars to the real world, giving real purpose to the subject. It was emotional hearing some of the information but I am very grateful for this experience and enjoyed writing up the qualitative assessment thoroughly."

"Volos was really great!"

Buildings and walkways by ocean waters with a mountain backdrop in Greece

 

Field Courses – South Africa

We are based at the Anthropology Field Station in the Soutpansberg Mountains and focus on the research of the Primate & Predator Project and its conservation activities. You may encounter all five South African primate species – Southern lesser bushbaby, thick-tailed bushbaby, samango monkey, vervet monkey and chacma baboon – and will get to study samango monkey behaviour, ecology and responses to predation risk, as well as understanding how the project monitors the carnivore populations such as the elusive leopard. We also encourage you to take an ethnographic, reflexive view of the biological field site itself and engage with the researchers based there, as well as developing an understanding of the local South African context; you will visit a local school as part of an environmental education programme and also spend two nights in the rural village of Indermark. Collectively you work at the intersection of biological and social anthropology to appreciate the broad range of activities and conservation initiatives in the region.

Testimonials

"I think it is a fantastic opportunity and I learned so much about how Anthropology functions in real life applications. It has made a huge positive impact to my second year to actually have course friends. The two weeks in South Africa were so engaging and it made me understand and appreciate my course a lot more."

"South Africa was amazing!!"

"The South Africa field course has been the highlight of my degree so far. I have loved every second of it. The course was exciting, fun and pushed me out of my comfort zone."

Students walking through grassland in South Africa

 

Field Courses – Sri Lanka

The Sri Lanka field school integrates a range of medical, social and environmental themes, with the specific focus changing annually in response to previous years’ findings. We are located in the coastal southeast of Sri Lanka – a largely rural area that in recent years has experienced significant infrastructure investment and development. Previously, students have studied the impacts of change on social and health wellbeing, diet and anthropometric indicators, human-wildlife interaction and conflict, and the meeting of local and global traditions of charity, philanthropy, and development. The site is run in collaboration with the University of Colombo, and students spend some of their time conducting research with a counterpart from that university. We place a strong emphasis on cross-cultural learning opportunities, and immersive research techniques. In addition, we include several optional activities such as visits to places of historical and cultural interest and local beaches.

Testimonials

“The fieldwork research itself was extremely intellectually stimulating, interesting, and all round a great experience for working across cultural and language barriers and also for meeting and getting to know new people on the course. I received extremely helpful advice consistently throughout from Gillian Bentley and Tom Widger and they were great. Feedback was also good too.”

“Amazing opportunity to study society in person rather than learning about it second hand... the overall organization of the trip to Sri Lanka was excellent, it was such a great experience that will help me with my dissertation!”

“The Sri Lanka field course was incredible. … The counterpart pair system was an amazing experience and something that is so important. Working through language barriers and learning about Sri Lankan culture through living with and forging friendships with the Colombo students made this trip without a doubt the best educational experience of the course by a country mile.”

Students and locals working the land and raking soil