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Documenting Impact

An Impact Case Study of Anthropological Collaboration in Tobacco Control

Andrew Russell and Sue Lewis

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.

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'Why Do They Talk about Spirits?'

Anthropological Interventions in Classroom Settings with Latin@ Immigrant Students

Alicia Re Cruz

This article describes the author's experiences as a professor in a Bilingual Education Programme at a local university; students are public school teachers in North Texas, teaching in classrooms ranging from 80 to 95 per cent Latin@ students. The author uses multi-sited ethnography and history in order to set the scenario for the political, ideological and economic factors embedded in the understanding of the Latin@ immigrant community presence in the area. The article documents anthropological 'intervention' strategies through papers and research projects. Students (public school teachers) are required to exercise participatory approaches to engage their own Latin@ students in their research papers. Through analysis of the transformative research projects presented by the students, the author documents the power of anthropological intervention and the effects in education policy.

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Julie Spray

Working at the nexus of medical anthropology and the anthropology of childhood, this article challenges three assumptions often embedded in child health policy: (1) children are the passive recipients of healthcare; (2) children’s knowledge of illness and their body can be assumed based on adult understandings; and (3) children’s healthcare can be isolated from their social relations. I explore these themes through the case study of a 2011 New Zealand government initiative to reduce the rates of rheumatic fever affecting low-income Māori and Pasifika children. Drawing on fieldwork with around 80 children at an Auckland primary school, I show how the ‘sore throat’ programme does not merely treat streptococcus A infections, but plays an active role in constituting children’s experiences and understandings of their bodies and illness, and in shaping healthcare practices in ways unintended by policy-makers.

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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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'J'accuse...!'

Crisis in the Reproduction of Anthropological Scholarship

Heike Schaumberg

The recent wave of important anthropological critiques of the global 'war on terror' is in danger of being undermined by a disciplinary vision that disregards challenging an institutional culture of fear and compliance with injustices and inequality, which is more likely to nurture discrimination and professional malpractices than commi ed scholarship. I am drawing an analogy with Zola's 'J'accuse…!' about how institutional rules of accountability in the tick-box form of neoliberal auditing can serve the purpose of oppressing the rights they are nominally intended to protect. The article argues that debates about disciplinary crisis should be reframed as one about a crisis in the reproduction of scholarship. The discipline needs to employ the anthropological tools of enquiry consistently in its practices and theory, 'at home' and in the wider world. Fundamental questions regarding discriminatory practices and professional ethics in the everyday academic workplace need to be addressed not silenced in order to nurture not only critical but also credible anthropological challenges to important contemporary historical processes.

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Regions and Regionalism in Social Anthropology

Possibilities and Approaches – The Case of Slovakia

Alexandra Bitušíková

The article deals with the study of regionalism in European social anthropology with the focus on Slovakia's regions, regional diversities and identities in a broader perspective of European integration and regionalisation. It looks at socio-anthropological research on regionalism worldwide and in Slovakia particularly. The key objective is to examine the impact of geographical conditions and political-administrative reforms on the development of historic regions, sustainability of regionalism and the survival of regional differences and identities in Slovakia. The essay also discusses the creation of transborder regional co-operation and the establishment of Euroregions that only started to develop in the new democratic conditions after 1989. What do transborder regions mean to local people? Are they only bureaucratically constructed entities based on co-operation of formal authorities or do they also have an impact on people's identities? The essay aims at drawing attention to the importance of this research orientation in contemporary European social anthropology.

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Engaging Anthropology in an Ebola Outbreak

Case Studies from West Africa

Emilie Venables and Umberto Pellecchia

The articles in this special issue demonstrate, through ethnographic fieldwork and observations, how anthropologists and the methodological tools of their discipline became a means of understanding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa during 2014 and 2015. The examples, from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, show how anthropologists were involved in the Ebola outbreak at different points during the crisis and the contributions their work made. Discussing issues including health promotion, gender, quarantine and Ebola survivors, the authors show the diverse roles played by anthropologists and the different ways in which they made use of the tools of their discipline. The case studies draw upon the ethical, methodological and logistical challenges of conducting fieldwork during a crisis such as this one and offer reflections upon the role of anthropology in this context.

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In Vitro Anthropos

New Conception Models for a Recursive Anthropology?

Sarah Franklin

Drawing on fieldwork in U.K. stem cell labs, where early human development is modelled in vitro using cell culture systems, and cultured cell lines are used to make new diagnostic tools, this article explores a new meaning for the phrase 'conception model'. In the London labs where the author has conducted fieldwork since the 1990s are many examples of how human reproductive cells are being used to manufacture and 'road test' new diagnostic tools. This article explores the recursion involved in modelling early development 'in man' (as opposed to mouse, axolotl or sea urchin), and develops anthropological analyses of living human cell systems grown in Petri dishes that are aimed at illuminating the causes of human pathology. It is argued that several different levels of recursive modelling occur via 'in vitro anthropos', and that these cellular models introduce a useful perspective on the debate over 'reflexive' anthropology, and the more recent turn to a 'recursive' anthropology. However, different kinds of difference are at stake in these two projects. Using cell culture modelling practices, and the 'conception model' offered by dish life as an analytic vantage point, the article offers a 'looped' view to illustrate what the 'recursive turn' might look like, or reveal, as an ethnographic project. In contrast to the 'loopy' view of much reflexive anthropology, fieldwork through the looking glass, including the explicit turn to a recursive anthropology, is argued to be both an empirically robust and a conceptually creative practice.

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William Dressler

In an earlier paper (Dressler, 2001), I suggested that medical anthropology as a research enterprise could not ignore either meaning or structure in human social life in the production of health. Rather, drawing on the early work of Bourdieu, I argued that we need to take into account both how the world is configured by the collective meanings we impose upon it, as well as the social structural (and physical) constraints on our behaviour that exist outside those meanings. Human health can be understood, in part, as the intersection of meaning and structure. Here, my aim is to extend this perspective in three ways. Firstly, I present an expanded theoretical framework within which collectivei meaning and social structure can be conceptualised. A useful theoretical framework must take into account paradoxical features of culture, including the seeming contradiction that it is a property both of social aggregates and of individuals, and that, ultimately, social structural constraints external to individuals depend on shared meaning. Secondly, I review recent research employing this perspective conducted in Brazil, the southern United States and Puerto Rico. These studies have all employed a 'structural-constructivist' theoretical orientation, using especially the concept of 'cultural consonance', or the degree to which individuals incorporate shared meaning into their own beliefs and behaviour. Where individual efforts to attain a higher cultural consonance are frustrated by structural constraints, poor health results. Thirdly, I consider some of the policy implications of this perspective. While much work in traditional public health focuses on a highly individualised notion of meaning (as in 'health beliefs'), it seems unlikely that the health of populations can be altered substantially without taking into account the structures that constrain individual action.

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Kinship among the Ġorbat of Babol

How an Anthropology of Childhood Reveals Kinship Structure

Mitra Asfari

The Ġorbat are one of the peripatetic groups in Iran known colloquially as Kowli (Gypsy). In scientific literature, we notice a lack of knowledge about this group. The only image of Ġorbats for urban Iranians consists of begging children at crossroads. As the Ġorbat child plays a crucial role in the social division of tasks, the present study approaches this group from the perspective of the anthropology of childhood. Analysis of childcare practices, the status of children in the group and their duties towards adults reveal specific models of kinship among Ġorbats. In addition, child circulation within the lineage reveals certain invariables in the Ġorbat’s structure of kinship. Thus, we can explain new modifications in the group’s task division and the underlying logics of child labour.