Aims and Objectives

This course aims to:

  1. train students to identify and critique relevant issues relating to cultural dimensions in the study of language and communication;
  2. give students methodological skills for conducting independent research on issues that are relevant and significant in language and communication and present findings in adequate, reflexive ways;
  3. provide students with opportunities to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world linguistic and communicative data, in particular in their everyday contexts of Hong Kong and Asia.




  • Classes are held as interactive sessions. We will engage with readings assigned from a variety of books and journal articles and relate them to our own and our research participants’ lived-experiences as cultural producers in Hong Kong.
  • At various points of the semester, certain classes may be given over to fieldwork sessions where students engage in ethnographic study of language and communication in local communities; these sessions complement the interactive sessions, providing experiential learning, with students utilising the theoretical knowledge and methodological skills acquired in class to conduct research. 
  • Students who miss more than 3 classes, for whatever reason, will be considered as not having completed the course and will not receive a final grade.




All components of the assessment contribute towards the final grade for the course. A failure to complete any of the assessments will result in a 0 for that particular proportion of the grade.

  • Critical commentary on ethnographic theory/method (20%, due before reading week)
  • Ethnographic field note and vignette (20%, due after reading week)
  • In-class presentation (20%, in the second half of the semester)
  • Final paper (40%, due in the assessment period)



Suggested Readings

Students are encouraged to read widely and independently, using the following indicative list as a point of departure. Weekly readings will be selected in consultation with students.

Agar, Michael (1980) The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography. New York: Academic Press.
Agha, Asif (2003) The social life of cultural value. Language and Communication 23(3/4): 231-273.
Appadurai, Arjun (2006) The right to research. Globalisation, Societies and Education 4(2): 167-177.
Atkinson, Paul and David Silverman (1997) Kundera’s immortality: The interview society and the invention of the self. Qualitative Inquiry 3(3): 304-325.
Blommaert, Jan and Dong Jie (2010) Ethnographic Fieldwork: A Beginner’s Guide. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Brettell, Caroline, B. (ed.) (1993) When They Read What We Write: The Politics of Ethnography. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.
Briggs, Charles (1986) Learning How to Ask: A Sociolinguistic Appraisal of the Role of the Interview in Social Science Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Clifford, James and George E. Marcus (1986) Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkley: University of California Press.
Copland, Fiona and Angela Creese (2015a) Linguistic Ethnography: Collecting, Analysing and Presenting Data. London: Sage.
Copland, Fiona, Sara Shaw and Julia Snell (eds.) (2015) Linguistic Ethnography: Interdisciplinary Explorations. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
De Fina, Anna and Sabina Perrino (2011) Interviews vs. ‘natural’ contexts: A false dilemma. Discourse in Society 40(1): 1-11.
Duranti, Alessandro (1997) Linguistic Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Geertz, Clifford (1973) The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books.
Geertz, Clifford (1988) Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Erickson, Frederick (1986) Qualitative methods in research on teaching. In: Merlin C. Wittrock (ed.) Handbook of Research on Teaching. 3rd edn. New York: Macmillan, pp. 119-161.
Hammersley, Martyn and Paul A. Atkinson (2007) Ethnography: Principles in Practice. 3rd edn. Oxon: Routledge.
Hymes, Dell (1981) Ethnographic monitoring of children’s acquisition of reading/language art skills in and out of the classroom. Volumes I, II, and III. Final report. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.
Hymes, Dell (1996) Ethnography, Linguistics, Narrative Inequality: Toward an Understanding of Voice. London: Taylor & Francis.
Irvine, Judith and Susan Gal (2000) Language ideology and linguistic differentiation. In: Paul V. Kroskrity (ed.) Regimes of Language: Ideologies, Polities, and Identities. Santa Fe, New Mexico: School of American Research Press. 35-84.
Jackson, John L. Jr. (2010) On ethnographic sincerity. Current Anthropology 51(2): 279-287.
James, Alison, Jenny Hockey and Andrew Dawson (eds.) (1997) After Writing Culture: Epistemology and Praxis in Contemporary Anthropology.London: Routledge.
Levon, Erez (2013) Ethnographic fieldwork. In: Christine Mallinson, Becky Childs and Gerard van Herk (eds.) Data Collection in Sociolinguistics: Methods and Applications, pp. 69-79. London: Routledge.
Nakassis, Constantine V. (2016) Linguistic anthropology in 2015: Not the study of language. American Anthropologist 118(2): 330-345.
Rampton, Ben, Janet Maybin and Celia Roberts (2015) Theory and method in linguistic ethnography. In: Fiona Copland, Sara Shaw and Julia Snell (eds.) Linguistic Ethnography: Interdisciplinary Explorations. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 14-50.
Rampton, Ben, Karin Tusting, Janet Maybin, Richard Barwell, Angela Creese and Vally Lytra (2004) UK Linguistic Ethnography: A discussion paper. Available (12 March 2016) online:
Rapley, Timothy J. (2001) The art(fulness) of open-ended interviewing: Some considerations on analysing interviews. Qualitative Research 1(3): 303-323.
Sanjek, Roger (ed.) (1990) Fieldnotes: The Makings of Anthropology. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Sarangi, Srikant (2011) Role hybridity in professional practice. In: Srikant Sarangi, Vanda Polese and Giuditta Caliendo (eds.) Genre(s) on the Move: Hybridisation and Discourse in Specialized Communication. Napoli: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiano, pp. 271-296.
Saville-Troike, Muriel (2003) The Ethnography of Communication: An Introduction. 3rd edn. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Schilling, Natalie (2013) Sociolinguistic Fieldwork. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Silverstein, Michael (1976) Shifters, linguistic categories, and cultural description. In Keith H. Basso and Henry A. Selby (eds.) Meaning in Anthropology. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, pp. 11–25.
Silverstein, Michael (2003) Indexical order and the dialectics of sociolinguistic life. Language and Communication 23: 193-229.
Van der Aa, Jef and Jan Blommaert (2011) Ethnographic monitoring: Hymes’s unfinished business in educational research. Anthropology and Education 42(4): 319-334.



Last updated: 12 July 2019