Department ofAnthropology

Ethnographic Approaches to Understanding Vulnerability to Disaster

ANTH 487 - Applied Anthropology: The Field Experience

Professor Steven Thomson

June 4-29, 2013 (Summer I)

good smaritan apartment

In the event of a disaster — an earthquake, a volcanic eruption, an industrial accident or a terrorist attack — how would Pierce County respond? Who within our community would be most vulnerable? What specific challenges would they encounter? What resources might they have that could prove to be valuable in a disaster?

This course will combine three elements:

  • a grounding in the current research on the anthropology of disaster,
  • training in ethnographic research methods,
  • and an opportunity to use that training by conducting research within Pierce County.

We will be working closely with a client — Pierce County Emergency Management — to produce an analysis of specific populations to understand their vulnerability and resiliency. - Xavier 333 - (253)-535-7598

Altered photographs above are used by permission of Pierce County Emergency Management

Program Details

This field school will be of particular interest to students interested in exploring the application of qualitative social science methods to contemporary issues.

Research Methods: In this class, students will learn about and have the opportunity to use some of the following research methods: participant observation, structured and unstructured interviewing, participatory mapping, structured time-interval behavior sampling, card sorts, social network analysis, scenario building.

Prerequisites: Students should have a strong background in the social sciences and a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Time Commitment: Regular class meetings will be held Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 8:30-11:20am. Students will need to be available to conduct field research when research opportunities present themselves (including opportunities outside of regular class time). Students will keep a detailed log of class-related activities as part of the course assessment.

Financial Commitment: Tuition: $2,420.  Students will be responsible for their own transportation to off-campus locations.

Application Procedures

Enrollment is by permission of instructor. All inquiries for additional information and applications should be directed to:

Dr. Steven Thomson

Department of Anthropology

Pacific Lutheran University

Tacoma, WA 98447

(253) 535-7598

To apply, please write a brief letter to Dr. Thomson addressing the following specific questions.

  • Your educational background including major(s), intended date of graduation, GPA, and a list of courses taken that you consider relevant preparation for this experience.
  • A brief summary of any related work experience.
  • A brief summary of any extended cross-cultural experiences
  • A brief summary of any experience conducting social science research

For more information about Summer Programs at PLU go to