Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

No poverty Good health and well-being Gender equality Reduced inequalities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student: - is able to move autonomously in applying the specific techniques learned independently or within projects organized by the institutions; - will know how to deal with other subjects on the methods of use and documentation of the techniques learned; - knows how to place the specific knowledge learned in different types of service; - will know how to evaluate the limits and merits of the technical instruments learned; - will know how to transfer the technologies learned in different contexts by making personal modifications and additions.

Course contents

The course focuses on anthropology's ethnographic research practices and on their relevance in the field of social work. The objective, pursued through a seminar-type course setting, is to discuss how an ethnographic approach allows to grasp socio-cultural complexity and develop critical operational tools in the design of educational intervention in contexts of social distress. Through the discussion of ethnographies on social services and pf public policies, students will be encouraged to explore what is meant by fieldwork research, how to identify and delimit a setting for participant observation posing specific research questions, how to gather data in the field and how to contextualize and discuss them. In this way students will become familiar with the anthropological concepts and analytical tools most pertinent to their training and will learn to develop, through the methodological and theoretical lens of anthropology, the ability to productively problematize the social contexts in which they operate or will operate professionally. The course foresees either a direct involvement of the students in the practice of participant observation in their work or internship settings, or, alternatively, in short "ethnographic exercises" in observation contexts identified during the course.


The bibliographic material will be made available by the professor on Alma Campus. It will include excerpts from: 

Cappelletto, F. (a cura di), 2009, Vivere l'etnografia, Firenze, SEID

Semi, G., 2010, L'osservazione partecipante: una guida pratica, Bologna, Il Mulino.

Taliani, Simona. 2019. Il tempo della disobbedienza. Per un'antropologia della parentela nella migrazione. Ombre corte, 2019.

Pinelli, Barbara. "Migranti e rifugiate." Antropologia, genere e politica. Milano: Raffaello Cortina Editore (2019).

Fassin, Didier. La forza dell'ordine: antropologia della polizia nelle periferie urbane. La linea, 2013.

Castellano, V. 2018. Revolving Door. I servizi sociali per i minori e la riproduzione delle disuguaglianze a New York. Junior

Antropologia Pubblica, Vol 3 No 1 (2017): Richiedenti asilo e sapere antropologico, reperibile alla pagina:https://riviste-clueb.online/index.php/anpub/issue/view/12

Teaching methods

Excerpts from various ethnographic monographs and articles provided by the professor will be read and discussed in the classroom. One lesson will be devoted to an "ethnographic experiment" in which students will use the skills they have learned to conduct a small-group participant observation exercise.

Assessment methods

The includes includes a final oral assessment in the classroom, in which students will present their field notes and reflections on the previously conducted participant observation exercise.

The assessment will verify the acquisition of the proposed research tools and the understanding of the main theoretical-methodological issues of anthropological and ethnographic research.

Office hours

See the website of Viola Castellano