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Grasping Terroir while Teaching Online: Resituating the “Field” in Pedagogies of the Global

  • Jonathan L. Larson ORCID logo EMAIL logo
From the journal New Global Studies


Framing the global in U.S. undergraduate education has significantly entailed “field” experiences. How have such activities prepared students to understand the interaction of daily life with larger institutions, structures, and processes? How to incorporate attention to the contradictions and untenable translations of a locale and its global entanglements into pedagogical responses to a pandemic that has significantly halted physical mobility and personal contact? This article takes up questions of how a certain conceptualization of ethnography could inform efforts to design new pedagogies for global studies. Building off a recent discussion in anthropology, I argue that the concept of ethnographic “sensibility” provides a productive entry point to discovering and articulating insights into the forms and dynamics of a population and place as shaped by interactions with other populations and places in time and space. I draw from my own experiences with the pre-pandemic piloting of an online course in media ethnography. I highlight examples of student work that point in one direction for how to engage students of global studies in profound field experiences, perhaps even when accessed digitally. This article employs the articulation of entry points for global research for the crafting of entry points for pedagogy.

Corresponding author: Jonathan L. Larson, European Union Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 910 S. Fifth St., 329 Intl. Studies Bldg., Champaign, Illinois, USA, E-mail:

Funding source: Grinnell College


I wish to thank audiences at the 2018 Framing the Global conference at Indiana University and 2019 NAFSA Research Symposium in Chicago, Illinois, as well as my collaborators on this special issue, Zsuzsa Gille and Hilary Kahn, for their many insightful questions and comments. Richard Bright provided the original inspiration to teach something online at a liberal arts college well before the pandemic made it a necessity. Laura Graham provided a conceptual foundation with the course on media ethnography that she has taught at the University of Iowa. Deborah Michaels was a critical interlocutor throughout. Financial support for the teaching of the course described here was generously provided by the Innovation Fund of Grinnell College, with Gina Donovan a tremendous support in the development of the course’s online format. Finally, I also wish to offer the greatest of thanks to my students who joined me in the experiment of this course over its three iterations, and whose curiosity, play, and generosity toward one another was a delight to experience.


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Published Online: 2020-12-01

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