In this article we consider the 'impact case study' (ICS) as a specific kind of document, one which, as part of the U.K.'s Research Excellence Framework (REF), enforces a common template for the description and measurement of the social and economic effects of research in U.K. higher education. We track the development of an ICS describing anthropological research in tobacco control which, after many iterations, was not submitted as part of the REF. We ask 'what is impact?' in cases where anthropological research is based on principles of collaboration and serendipity rather than the mechanistic 'research > translation > impact > measurement' model which an ICS is expected to follow. What is included and what excluded by the strictures of such a model? We are generally supportive of the impact agenda, feeling that university resources and activities have a vital role to play in progressive social change. However, the way 'impact' is recorded, appraised and measured in an ICS only captures a small proportion of the effects of anthropological research, and encourages particular forms of public engagement while discounting others.
An Impact Case Study of Anthropological Collaboration in Tobacco Control
Andrew Russell and Sue Lewis
How Liberians Responded to the Ebola Epidemic Containment Measures
This article examines how populations affected by the Ebola epidemic in Liberia reacted to the implementation of mandatory, state-imposed quarantine as a way of curtailing transmission. The ethnography, based on in-depth fieldwork in both urban and rural areas, shows how mandatory quarantine caused severe social consequences for both people’s perceptions of epidemic control and their health-seeking behaviours. The authoritarian imposition of this public-health measure soon became a driver of social fear that contributed to the divide between institutions and population, jeopardising the control of transmission. Its implementation overshadowed more acceptable local quarantine measures that communities were organising to protect themselves from transmission. The analysis argues that quarantine in Liberia was counterproductive and suggests alternatives to epidemic control rooted in social acceptance and local practices.
Carol Bohmer and Amy Shuman
For immigration authorities, the goal of asylum hearings is to differentiate between economic migrants and legitimate political asylum seekers. However, in the stories asylum seekers tell, these categories often blur. Nevertheless, the asylum process uses this differentiation to conceal inequities in the system, and to justify denials. This article examines political asylum as a transnational and culturally local process and argues that contradictions between protection and control underlie some of the seemingly absurd denials of asylum applications.
Dilemmas in an Ethnographic Study of Health Policy Makers
Serena Heckler and Andrew Russell
In this article we report on collaborative, ethnographic research investigating the first regional tobacco control office in the U.K. and some of the dilemmas it poses. The ideal of collaboration is fully realisable in this setting, where the participants are both eager and qualified to contribute meaningfully to the project. However, the fulfilment of such an ideal poses its own problems. For example, the educational level and professional expertise of some participants allows them to fully engage with the theoretical framework to the extent that they could, if allowed, rewrite manuscripts. Other issues are more subtle, such as how to establish appropriate boundaries between the researcher and the tobacco control office staff. We suggest that the collaborative research model presupposes differentials of power, education and culture between researchers and participants that do not necessarily apply in the case of research in such settings. Where these differentials are lacking, the field is open for dominant participants to assume `undue influence' over the research project. To prevent this, we have reinstated boundaries between object and subject that were originally dissolved as part of the collaborative model. As a result, our project is maintaining a delicate balance between the conflicting aims of objectivity and collaboration.
Optics of regulation and control
Ieva Jusionyte and Daniel M. Goldstein
In the introduction to this theme section we attempt to disentangle the webs of in/visibility and in/security by tracing out their diverse iterations. We construct a series of conversations between two of the four key terms relevant to this discussion—security and insecurity, visibility and invisibility—as a means of analyzing the different ways in which their various articulations engage meaningfully in the production and reproduction of contemporary security cultures. Ethnographic examples accompany each iteration, drawn from the work of contributors to this theme section, as well as from other contemporary research. These examples not only illustrate the multiple and shift ing intersections of in/visibility and in/security in today’s security-minded world but also remind us of the unique contributions that anthropology can make to the critical study of security.
Nonrecording states between legibility and looking away
Barak Kalir and Willem van Schendel
In this theme section we explore why and when states knowingly refrain from recording people and their activities. States are not simply in pursuit of enhanced “legibility”; at times they also need to be able to “look away.” In explaining strategies of nonrecording, our focus is on how subjects negotiate with state recording agencies, how nonrecording relieves state agents from the burden of accountability, how the discretionary power of individual state agents affects (non)recording in unanticipated ways, and how states may project an illusion of vigorous recording internationally while actually engaging in deliberate nonrecording. Presenting case studies from China, Greece, the Netherlands, India, and Romania, we show that strategies of nonrecording are flexible, selective, and aimed at certain populations—and that both citizens and noncitizens can be singled out for nonrecording or derecording. In analyzing this state-produced social oblivion, divergences between national and local levels are of crucial significance.
Humanitarian House Visits, Performative Refugeehood, and Social Control of Syrians in Jordan
Through a hospitality lens, the article looks at an Evangelical grassroots organization’s practice of house visits to Syrian refugees in Mafraq, Jordan. It begins by situating the hosting practices of European volunteers in the context of Mafraq’s multi-layered NGO environment and within the emerging literature on the role of transnational support networks in faith-based humanitarianism. A review of philosophical and anthropological literatures reveals how power dynamics and bordering practices shape the hospitality encounter. Its function as a scale-shifter between the local and the national makes “hospitality” well-suited for the study of displacement. Subsequent parts of the article explore volunteers’ acts of infringement on Syrians’ hospitality code that allow them to “contain” refugees’ demands for aid. The final section revisits Boltanski’s theory of a “politics of pity” in communicating distant suffering. The set-up of house visits forces refugees to perform “suffering” which provides the raw material for volunteers’ moving testimonies back home.
Educational Media in Context(s) Simone Lässig
This article provides an introduction to the aims, methods, and interdisciplinary approach of this new journal, elucidating the traditions of international textbook research and the function of educational media as illuminating sources for various academic disciplines. Textbooks and curricula in particular, which are not only state-approved but also of a highly condensed and selective nature, are obliged to reduce the complexities of the past, present, and future onto a limited number of pages. Particularly in the humanities, which often deal with concepts of identity and portrayals that may be more open to interpretation, textbooks can become the subjects of controversial debate, especially in relation to societal shifts such as globalization and immigration. In this regard, this journal intends to illuminate the situations in which educational media evolve, including their social, cultural, political, and educational contexts. The emergence of new, particularly digital, educational media marks new modes of knowledge production. The Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society (JEMMS) invites analyses that reach beyond the printed page and even beyond the institution of the school itself.
Oligarchic Corporations and New State Formations
Current configurations of global, imperial, and state power relate to formations of oligarchic control. A major feature of this is the command of political organizations and institutions by close-knit social groups (families or familial dynasties, groups of kin, closed associations, or tightly controlled interlinked networks of persons) for the purpose of the relatively exclusive control of economic resources and their distribution, these resources being vital to the existence of larger populations. For many theorists, the state, throughout history and in its numerous manifestations, was born in such processes and continues to be so. Moreover, the oppressive powers of state systems (e.g., the denial or constraining of human freedoms, the production of poverty and class inequalities) and the expansion of these in imperial form are a consequence of oligarchic forces.
Mary Taylor Huber
Higher education in the US stands out for its size and variety, and its complex mix of public and private finance and control. Although this situation makes it hard to 'see' and 'name' the sources of systemic change, academic life in the US is showing the same signs of neoliberal 'market penetration' as elsewhere. One way in which educators in the US are attempting to take some control is through a movement to recognise and reward different kinds of scholarly work. By illuminating this movement's contradictory tendencies, anthropologically informed ethnography can help move debate forward and suggest strategies for action.