Weaving the World: Workshops on Evocative Ethnographic Writing

For several years I have had the pleasure of teaching three to four-day workshops on ethnographic writing. I have found the workshops to be rewarding and satisfying. They offer me the opportunity to share my experience as an ethnographer and writer and extend my commitment to inter-generational mentoring.

The Ethnographer’s Study. Photo by Paul Stoller

The aim of the three to four-day workshop, “Weaving the World,” is to introduce participants to the fundamental features and essential practices of ethnography, ethnographic writing and blogging. During the workshop participants will learn what distinguishes ethnography from other forms of academic and nonfiction representation. The technique of “Weaving the World,” a seamless linkage of ethnographic description to social analysis will be presented. Participants will be asked to read examples from the work of ethnographers who have, in various ways, attempted to use this technique to describe social worlds through the evocation of space/place, character, and dialogue. These are strategies that ethnographic writers can use to ensure that readers come to know a people who live in a particular place

Scene from the Berlin Writing Workshop, February 2017 Photo by Nasima Selim

The workshop is designed for anyone interested in ethnographic writing, particularly advanced graduate students and junior scholars. It is intended to give practitioners the tools to extend their scholarly insights to a wide audience of readers. Participants will engage in writing exercises to learn how to evoke space/place, how to write dialogue, and how to construct character. By the end of the workshop each participant produces a polished piece of ethnographic writing that “weaves the world” by combining descriptions of place/space, demonstrating the power of dialogue, and presenting portraits of character. Workshop writing projects have resulted in published ethnographic essays and blogs.


“Thanks Fiona and Evi for organizing this amazing workshop and thanks to Paul for amazing teaching! I am so glad to have this opportunity to participate. I learned so much from others research and writing.” –Participant in the Queen’s University Workshop

“Thank you so much for a great week of stories and story writing. I feel I have traveled some more in the world” -Participant in the Queen’s University Workshop

“A big thanks to all of you for being such a creative and lovely group!
Special thanks to Fiona and Evi for the effort, stamina and delivery of a wonderful workshop. And of course to Paul for a truly transformative experience!”–a participant in the Queen’s University Workshop.

“In Berlin, for sure, you managed to inspire a bunch of PhD candidates to experiment with sensuous descriptions in their ethnographic writing.” –Participant in the Free University of Berlin Writing Workshop 2017

…a huge huge thank you for doing this…the students have all sent glowing reports…You have probably changed quite a few young people’s lives–organizer of the University of Helsinki Writing Workshop 2015

“Last week I…attended an intensive four-day workshop called “Weaving the World…The course inspired me to craft new answers and respond to the usual questions, but I also learned how to re-evaluate my own position as an anthropologist…”–a participant in the University of Amsterdam Writing Workshop 2018

“Thank you again for a great workshop. I think I can say I’ve learned more about evocative writing in these four days than in my entire career combined. And, importantly, I regained pleasure in the writing so thank you so much for that!”– a participant in the University of Amsterdam Writing Workshop 2018

Paul Stoller at the Free University of Berlin Writer’s Workshop, February 2017 Photo by Nasima Selim

Paul Stoller is Professor of Anthropology at West Chester University and has been conducting ethnographic research for more than 30 years. He is the author 15 books including ethnographies, memoirs, a biography, and three novels. In 2013 King Carl XVI Gustav awarded him the Anders Retzius Gold Medal in Anthropology. In 2015 the American Anthropological Association awarded him the Anthropology in Media Award. Since 2010 he has published more than 150 blogs most of which appeared in The Huffington Post.

If interested in offering a Weaving the World Workshop in 2019 please contact me at ps[email protected] to discuss where and when we might organize it.

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