Ethnographic Field School in Tonga

Every two years I take a small group of University of Utah students to conduct ethnographic fieldwork in the Kingdom of Tonga. Whether to gain experience in ethnographic methods or to simply experience the Tongan community, students gain real-world experience living abroad as a field anthropologist. While each field season may have a different research focus, every trip will include introduce students to the culture, history and language of Tonga. The next field school will take place in May 2020.

The students will sign up for 3 credit hours of University of Utah anthropology course 4960/6960 with Dr. Adrian Bell. For about 4 weeks from early May to early June, students will stay with host families in local villages across multiple islands within the archipelago. During this time the program director will guide research activities and provide instruction and readings about the local environmental and cultural contexts. Students will use behavioral observations, structured interviews, and other methods to address questions about cultural and linguistic change among Tongan communities.

Excursions on the islands will include important historical sites such as the royal tombs, other lithic structures, and wildlife viewing. Because Tongans rely on a wide variety of marine resources, students will become familiar with the marine environment. Snorkeling or scuba diving (if certified) will be conducted under the guidance of trained instructors/guides.

The special fee tied to Anth 4960/6960 of $1950 will cover lodging, food, transportation within Tonga, entrance fees, and international health insurance.  This fee does *not* include airfare to/from Tonga, passport, and personal expenses (souvenirs, for example).

If you have questions about the field school, please send me an email at

If you would like to apply to the field school for summer 2020, fill out and send me the application form linked here. Applications are due Jan 31, 2020. 

Preparation coursesThough not required, I highly recommend applicants take my course on statistics (Anth 5230) and my cultural course on the Pacific Islands (Anth 3151) prior to the field school.

About the Kingdom of Tonga

Tonga is a tropical island nation in Western Polynesia with an economy based on subsistence horticulture, cash-cropping, fishing, limited marked and wage labor and a large remittance economy. While monetary aid from neighboring nations has provided amenities such as water tanks and some market infrastructure, household economies are primarily based on yields from agriculture, kinship relationships and remittances from overseas.