Epistemology and Ethnographic Hermeneutics (2020/2021)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Stefania Pontrandolfo
Stefania Pontrandolfo
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem. 1A dal Sep 21, 2020 al Oct 31, 2020.

Lesson timetable

Go to lesson schedule

Learning outcomes

The educational objectives are:

1) Knowledge and capacity to understand. At the end of the course, the student should: - have a basic knowledge of the fundamental epistemological and hermeneutic principles of anthropological ethnography; - have a basic knowledge of the main cosmological models (Amerindian perspectivism in particular) as reconstructed by ethnographic surveys; - have a basic knowledge of the stages in the historical development of naturalistic cosmology.

2) Knowledge and capacity to apply understanding. At the end of the course, the student should be able to: - consciously apply analogical reasoning in the cultural field; - recognize the epistemological bases of an ethnographic text; - recognize the fundamental features of the main forms of cosmology; - cosmologically position a philosophical theory.

3) Independent judgment. At the end of the course, the students will have acquired: - the capacity to critically analyze an anthropological text in relation to its ethnological bases; - the capacity to anthropologically analyze a vision of the world (or cosmology); - the capacity to critically analyze the cosmological foundations of a philosophical theory.

4) Communication skills At the end of the course, students should be able to: - consciously use specific terms relating to anthropological ethnography themes; - speak precisely about the differences and similarities between the various ethnographic theories; - speak precisely about the cosmological problems involved in the nature-culture relationship.

5) Capacity to learn. At the end of the course, the students should be able to: - analyze the quality of an ethnographic research; - identify and analyze culturally-oriented cosmological constructions.


The course content regards:
- Ethnography between epistemology and hermeneutics;
- The problem of experiments in the history of anthropology;
- Ethnography as an experiment of experience;
- The cognitive bases of analogy and analogies in anthropology;
- Fuzziness: resonance, empathy and serendipity in ethnography;
- Ethnography as practice of theory: Malinowski's case study of Trobriand society

Teaching methods
Lectures (if necessary also online through moodle, panopto or zoom) in which numerous ethnographic examples will be presented to support the teaching/learning of the basic concepts

Texts to study:
Piasere, L. 2002, L'etnografo imperfetto. Esperienza e cognizione in antropologia, Roma-Bari, Laterza.
Malinowski, B., Argonauti del Pacifico occidentale (all editions are fine )

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Malinowski B. Argonauti del Pacifico Occidentale Bollati Boringhieri 2004 L'edizione consigliata è quella di Bollati Boringhieri del 2004, ma vanno bene tutte le edizioni.
Piasere, L. L’etnografo imperfetto. Esperienza e cognizione in antropologia. Laterza 2002

Assessment methods and criteria

Learning levels will be assessed by an oral exam (if necessary through online platforms).
The assessment method will be NO different for attending and non-attending students.
Students must be able to demonstrate:
- to have understood the relevant underlying elements of epistemology and ethnographic hermeneutics;
- to have understood the relevant elements concerning the study of cosmologies as collections with ethnographic methods;
- to be able to express their own reasoning in a precise manner, identifying and selecting the essential elements;
- to be able to critically analyze the relationship between philosophical thought and the cosmological construction on which it is based.