If applicants wish, they may pursue an emphasis on experimental ethnography, which is conceived both as a field of study and as a creative mode of ethnographic research and output. Experimental ethnography encompasses investigations into bodily praxis, material culture and the affective dimensions of human and multispecies existence, as well as creative audiovisual, material and written expressions of this work. The track in experimental ethnography supports innovative research in film, video, sound and written ethnography that furthers the significance of this emerging subfield while contributing to the discipline of anthropology and cognate fields in the humanities, social sciences and the arts.

Students work with their committees to design a course of study that enables them to develop an appropriate framework for their dissertation. Students are rigorously trained in contemporary theories of anthropology, but are otherwise free to pursue specialized training across campus in support of their research. Students may design a practice-led research program and are encouraged to foster relationships with organizations in the Los Angeles vicinity, or at their field site, through structured practicums. By the end of the third year, students are expected to produce substantive research articles, creative media pieces, curatorial programs and/or public exhibitions in response to their coursework and practicums. The PhD track in experimental ethnography culminates in a dissertation in which practice and theory should be evidently mutually constitutive.

Given that USC Anthropology students are expected to complete their training within five years, applicants would benefit from having previous strong ties to their proposed field site(s), relevant language training, and a completed Bachelors, M.A., M.F.A. or other professional degree at the time of application. Applicants who can demonstrate established media arts practices and a strong connection to a research site, topic, related field of inquiry or form of engagement are encouraged to apply.

Students pursuing an experimental approach will benefit from the Anthropology Department’s history as a pioneer in visual anthropology, as well as its proximity to cultural institutions in Los Angeles. They will participate in events organized by the Center for Ethnographic Media Arts as well as events of interest across Dornsife, at the School for Cinematic Arts and the Roski School of Art.