The notion of performance has become dominant in health programming, whether being embodied through pay-for-performance schemes or through other incentive-based interventions. In this article, we seek to unpack the idea of performance and performing in a dialogical fashion between field-based evaluation findings and methodological considerations. We draw on episodes where methodological reflections on performing ethnography in the field of global health intersect with findings from the everyday practices of working under performance-based contracts in the Senegalese supply chain for family planning. While process evaluations can be used to understand contextual factors influencing the implementation of an intervention, we as anthropologists in and of contemporary global health have an imperative to explore and challenge categories of knowledge and practice. Making room for new spaces of possibilities to emerge means locating anthropology within qualitative global health research.
Ethnographic Insights from Senegal
Diane Duclos, Sylvain L. Faye, Tidiane Ndoye and Loveday Penn-Kekana
Welcome to the first issue of our first three-issue volume of Projections. We begin this issue with a truly exciting collaboration between a filmmaker (and scholar), Karen Pearlman, and a psychologist, James E. Cutting. Cutting and Pearlman analyze a number of formal features, including shot duration, across successive cuts of Pearlman’s 2016 short film, Woman with an Editing Bench. They find that the intuitive revisions that Pearlman made actually track a progression toward fractal structures – complex patterns that also happen to mark three central pulses of human existence (heartbeat, breathing, walking).
Sara Van Belle
In this article, I set out to capture the dynamics of two streams within the field of global health research: realist research and medical anthropology. I critically discuss the development of methodology and practice in realist health research in low- and middle-income countries against the background of anthropological practice in global health to make claims on why realist enquiry has taken a high flight. I argue that in order to provide a contribution to today’s complex global issues, we need to adopt a pragmatic stance and move past disciplinary silos: both methodologies have the potential to be well-suited to an analysis of deep layers of context and of key social mechanisms.
Barbara Jane Brickman
In their new groundbreaking study reviewed in this special issue, The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution (2018), sociologist Ann Travers details the experiences of transgender children in the US and Canada, some as young as four years of age, who participated in research interviews over a five-year period. Establishing a unique picture of what it means to grow up as a trans child, Travers offers numerous examples of daily life and challenges for children like, for example, Martine and Esme, both of whom sought to determine their own gender at an early age: Martine and her family recount how at the age of seven she responded to her upcoming appointment at a gender clinic by asking if the doctor would have “the machine where you walk in as a boy and walk out as a girl,” while Esme’s story begins in preschool and leads to the care of a “trans-affirmative doctor” (168) from the age of six and the promise of hormone blockers and estrogen at the onset of puberty. Although Travers’s work is devoted to and advocates for trans children as a whole, its implications for our understanding of and research into girls and girlhood cannot be understated. What does it mean to “walk out” of that machine in the doctor’s office “as a girl?” What happens when you displace the seemingly monumental onset of puberty from its previous biological imperatives and reproductive futures? How might feminist work on girlhoods, which has sought to challenge sexual and gender binaries for so long, approach an encounter with what Travers calls “binary-conforming” or “binary-identifying” (169) trans girls or with the transgender boys in their study who, at first, respond to the conforming pressures of adolescence very similarly to cisgender girls who will not ultimately transition away from a female identity?
On Being In-Between in a Global Health Intervention
Within multi-disciplinary global health interventions, anthropologists find themselves navigating complex relationships of power. In this article, I offer a critical reflection on this negotiated terrain, drawing on my experience as an embedded ethnographer in a four-year adolescent sexual and reproductive health research intervention in Latin America. I critique the notion that the transformative potential of ethnographic work in global health remains unfulfilled. I then go on to argue that an anthropological practice grounded in iterative, inter-subjective and self-reflexive work has the potential to create ‘disturbances’ in the status quo of day-to-day global health practice, which can in turn destabilise some of the problematic hubristic assumptions of health reforms.
Arguing that the resistance in France during the Second World War was always transnational in important ways, this piece identifies some of the recent scholarship that has expanded both the temporal and geographic parameters of the French Resistance. It introduces some of the key themes of this collection of articles and underscores the important contributions made by the participating authors. As these articles reveal, we can find sites of transnational resistance by looking at the relationship between the Allies and the resistance, the role that non-French denizens played in the resistance, the politics of cultural resistance, and the circulation of downed Anglo-American aircrews in Europe.
Anthropological Knowledge and Practice in Global Health
Rodney Reynolds and Isabelle L. Lange
Since the turn of the millennium, conceptual and practice-oriented shifts in global health have increasingly given emphasis to health indicator production over research and interventions that emerge out of local social practices, environments and concerns. In this special issue of Anthropology in Action, we ask whether such globalised contexts allow for, recognise and sufficiently value the research contributions of our discipline. We question how global health research, ostensibly inter- or multi-disciplinary, generates knowledge. We query ‘not-knowing’ practices that inform and shape global health evidence as influenced by funders’ and collaborators’ expectations. The articles published here provide analyses of historical and ethnographic field experiences that show how sidelining anthropological contributions results in poorer research outcomes for the public. Citing experiences in Latin America, Angola, Senegal, Nigeria and the domain of global health evaluation, the authors consider anthropology’s roles in global health.
In this brief introduction to the Symposium to celebrate the 75th birthday of Gabriel Josipovici, held at the University of Sussex on 10 September 2016, the author recalls his first meeting with Gabriel during the 1960s, when literary criticism was dominated by a particular English perspective. As a cultural outsider, Gabriel introduced new approaches, particularly from France, that became part of transformative changes to the discipline as taught at the university.
Experiencing Anticipation. Anthropological Perspectives
Christopher Stephan and Devin Flaherty
Despite contemporary anthropology’s growing interest in ‘futures’, there has been an absence of sustained dialogue concerning the vital role of anticipation in everyday life. Seeking to bring much needed attention to the first-person perspective on futurity, in this introduction to the special issue we situate anticipation within the temporality of lived experience. Drawing on premises from anthropological studies of experience (particularly phenomenological approaches), we frame the experiential approach to anticipation by highlighting the parameters of its cross-cultural and intercontextual variability. We argue that anticipatory experience provides a crucial locus for ethnographic inquiry into the disparate and polysemous manifestations of futures in everyday life. We then seek to demonstrate how anticipation thus conceived may be productively integrated with numerous ongoing themes within contemporary anthropological scholarship. Finally, we introduce the individual contributions to the issue.
Penetrating “the fog of health” in a Nigerian community, 1970–2017
Too often, research into the health of a particular community is brief and superficial, focusing only on what is public and leaving the private health of women and children ‘foggy’. By contrast, long-term anthropology can offer access to processes taking place within a local culture of illness. Here, an account of a community’s experience of health over the past 50 years not only outlines the key changes as seen anthropologically but also shows how even close ethnography can initially miss important data. Furthermore, the impact of a researcher – both as a guest and as a source of interference – underlines how complex fieldwork can be in reality, especially if seen through the eyes of the researcher’s hosts.