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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.

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Sexular practice

Notes on an ethnography of secularism

Oskar Verkaaik and Rachel Spronk

In Europe today, the most heated identity politics revolve around matters of sexuality and religion. In the context of “integration” debates that occur in different forms in various countries, sexuality has gained a new form of normativity, and new sexual sensitivities have replaced former ones. So far, scholarly discussions deal with these sensitivities in a deconstructivist and critical manner, denaturalizing discourses on culture, identity, and religion. However, these debates do not consider the experiences of people implicated in these debates, and their often emotional and political engagement in matters where sexuality and religion intersect. Joan Scott’s coinage of the term “sexularism” denotes a particular form of embodiment that is part of secularism in Europe today. Rather than studying the discourse of secularism, this article focuses on the practice of secularization; how do people fashion their daily lives concerning sexuality, religion and its intimate intersection?

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Lifelong Learning in Tokyo

A Satisfying Engagement with Action Research in Japan

Akihiro Ogawa

This article presents an action research project, which I have been managing since 2001 in Tokyo, Japan. It is based on a non-profit organization (NPO), a group that promotes community-oriented lifelong learning, which was established under the 1998 NPO Law. Action research is a social research strategy, carried out by a team that includes a professional researcher and members of a community who are jointly seeking to improve their situation. This paper shows primarily how I have engaged with people at my field site, an NPO called SLG (pseudonym), and how we have produced knowledge to make changes to improve the quality of social life for more than ten years. I provide a narrative concerning recent developments at SLG in order to demonstrate how an action research project like this continually unfolds.

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Answering Daimã's Question

The Ontogeny of an Anthropological Epistemology in Eighteenth-Century Scotland

Peter Gow

This article seeks to describe the social preconditions of the emergence of science in Scotland since the Enlightenment and what came to be unknown in the process. It addresses the way in which the geologist James Hutton generated a specific category of 'men of scientific observation' as opposed to 'men of common observation'. In doing so, he, like other Enlightenment thinkers, transformed an existing spatial ordering of social relations into a temporal one. This formed one of the early steps in the development of a genuinely anthropological epistemology, whereby knowledge of the human lies with the 'primitive' other and with his or her knowledge of the world. Anthropology is thus the scientific observation of common observation and, as Lévi-Strauss pointed out, a specific form of common observation.

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David Collins

This is the first half of a two-part critical survey of writings by British and American visitors to the Russian Altai between 1848 and 1928. In the first half the published travel accounts of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson (1848-53), George Kennan (1885), Elim Pavlovich Demidov (1897), Henry Elwes (1898), Samuel Turner (1903) and Harald Swayne (1903) are summarised and put into context. These sources are then assessed in turn to determine how useful they are for specialists in Siberian Studies, and specifically those investigating the Altai. The conclusion is that several retain value, particularly in the post-communist era when the Russian Altai is opening up for business and tourism, and researchers there are trying to rediscover their lost heritage. The extensive annotations provide scholarly backup for the author's contentions and point to other known travellers who might have written relevant accounts, details of which are not as yet available. Biobibliographical notes place people and places in context.

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By the shores of white waters

The Altai and its place in the spiritual geopolitics of Nicholas Roerich

John McCannon

The artist Nicholas Roerich, famous for his expeditions (1925-1928 and 1934-1936) to Central Asia and the Himalayas, was deeply fascinated by the Altai Mountains, which he visited in 1926 (even though he had emigrated from Soviet Russia in 1918). His interest in the region had partly to do with his scholarly theories about the origin of Eurasian cultures. Even more important were Roerich's occult beliefs. Ostensibly artistic and academic in nature, Roerich's expeditions were part of a larger effort to create a pan-Buddhist state that was to include southern Siberia, Mongolia, and Tibet. In the Altai, Roerich aimed to locate the legendary land of White Waters (Belovod'e) and build his capital there. Support for this 'Great Plan' came from American followers of Roerich's mystical teachings. In addition, by representing himself to Soviet authorities as someone who might foster anti-British resentment and pro-Russian feelings among the populations of Central Asia and Tibet, Roerich briefly piqued their interest. The Great Plan was never realised, but Roerich continued to believe in the Altai's magical properties.

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David G. Anderson

This article gives an overview of the primary records of the 1926-1927 Turukhansk Polar Census Expedition. The author argues that rather than being an exercise in statistical surveillance, the expedition can be better characterized as a classical expedition of discovery. The article describes the structure of the expedition and the documents that were collected, places the expedition in a history of the surveillance of aboriginal peoples, and presents a research program for re-analyzing the data in light of the contemporary interests of Siberian indigenous peoples.

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Canon Fire

Decolonizing the Curriculum

Andrew Sanchez

Despite sustained critical attention to the politics of knowledge, contemporary anthropology disproportionately engages with ideas produced by academics based in European and North American universities. The ‘decolonizing the curriculum’ movement speaks to core areas of anthropological interest while making a critical comment on the academic structures in which anthropologists produce their work. The articles in this collection interrogate the terms on which academic work engages with its own history, and ask how the production of knowledge relates to structures of race, gender and location. The collection considers the historical, political and institutional context of the ‘decolonizing the curriculum’ movement, the potential impact that the movement might make on education and research, and the major challenges facing it.

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First as Tragedy, Then as Teleology

The Politics/People Dichotomy in the Ethnography of Post-Yugoslav Nationalization

Stef Jansen

Ethnographers working in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been at the forefront of the struggle against the identitarianism that dominates scholarship and policymaking regarding the country. Tirelessly foregrounding patterns of life that exceed, contradict, complicate or are oblivious to questions thus framed, we have—unsurprisingly—paid a price for this contribution: explorations of the appeal of nationalism are left mostly to others. Th is article identifies anemic and etic politics/people paradigm that facilitates our timidity to register the ways in which “ordinary people” may enact nationalist subjectivity. Seeking to retain the paradigm’s strengths, I call for a recalibration of how we understand it to function and explore conceptual tools to make this work. Starting from two cases of “foot soldier narratives,” I suggest that hegemony theory can help us trace not only how people are subjected to nationalization but also how they may seek subjectification through it.

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Confronting Tyranny in a Public Health Agency

Crafting a ‘Philosophy of Praxis’ into a ‘Community of Resistance’

Brian McKenna

This article details how a community of practice came crashing down on the iron rocks of bureaucracy. I apply Brown and Duguid’s theorisation of the dialectics of ‘working, learning and innovating’ illustrating how these three aspects came to conflict with one another, and how I worked to resolve them. As an anthropologist leading an environmental health project in a mid-Michigan public health agency, I formed a ‘community of practice’ and proceeded as a researcher, ethnographer and community activist for nearly three years, gathering findings to change the agency’s organisational structure, as a form of ‘disruptive innovation’. The community ‘roundtable’ of external project advisors highly supported the penultimate reports on water pollution, air pollution and restaurant health. The interdisciplinary strategies pursued resulted in valuable integrations of new knowledge in public anthropology across several thematic areas: critical public pedagogy, sustainability, citizen science, radical journalism and anthropologies of violence, trauma and transformation.