This article focuses on the training context of private military and security (PMS) contractors. The training they undergo varies considerably, though the majority of training providers offer instruction in how to work in armed close protection (CP) as so-called bodyguards of dignitaries or on convoy protection. Set against this backdrop, the article reports on two periods of ethnographic field research of armed CP training where the author trained as a bodyguard in the first, and played the role of dignitary in the second. The discussion notes the very particular ways in which security is co-constituted between training instructor, author, and student. Here, a form of embodied reflexivity is used to show how security is translated between actors. Acknowledging that security is mediated through time, space, and the body can help to explain the experiences of host populations whose security has at particular moments been jeopardized by these armed actors.
Methodological Reflections from the Field
Methodological Implications of Positioning during and after Fieldwork in Conflict Societies
This article discusses the relationship between the researcher and a field affected by armed conflict. Based on ethnographic research in Sri Lanka during the ceasefire of 2002, it investigates how deep polarization that emerges in the course of a violent conflict determines the researcher’s scope for positioning vis-à-vis the different groups. The article argues that the unpredictibility of the research site necessitates careful navigation of the self and requires thorough reflection on the consequences of particular moves at the point of decision making. In order to maintain relationships with different sides, there is a need to deal carefully with sensitive issues, both during and after fieldwork. This article pleas for a balance between pragmatism and ethics.
New Knowledge, Methodologies, and Practical Implications—A Panel Commentary
Khalid Koser, Pnina Werbner and Ien Ang
Khalid Koser: I will focus particularly on the notion of future research directions … from a refugee studies perspective. I think what today’s workshop has confirmed to me, yet again, is the strength of anthropology in this whole area of refugee studies. There is no doubt that anthropology is one of the leading disciplines in the study of refugees … Anthropology and law have got refugee studies wrapped up, while other disciplines have not really made enough of a contribution to this area.
The Uses of Ethnography in a Contested Field of Scholarship
Since the 1980s, there has existed a field of scholarly inquiry into a range of phenomena termed New Age. The relative lack of ethnographic studies in this field was identified several years ago, in response to research that focused merely on the discourses within alleged key writings. However, the employment of ethnographic methods does not by itself resolve the problems inherent in other modes of research; attention also has to be paid to how ethnography is used in practice. This article examines ethnographies of the New Age in terms of the extent to which they contextualize data within their immediate social frames, by paying attention to actors' practices and interactions, and to the ways in which beliefs and discourses are constructed and contested. The article demonstrates the strong tendency among New Age ethnographic studies to veer from 'the social' and to rest instead on analytically problematic conceptualizations of agency. It argues that epistemological revision is required to form the basis of a more sociologically adequate understanding of the phenomena addressed.
Young People's Influence on Policymaking in Northern Ireland
This article discusses young people's influence on a recent policy initiative conducted among Catholic and Protestant school leavers in Northern Ireland's second largest urban area, Derry/Londonderry. The programme, the Toward Reconciliation and Inclusion Project or TRIPROJECT, was Northern Ireland's first dedicated attempt to target young school leavers in a survey project and sought to involve the young people in the selection of questions used within the survey. The article opens with a brief discussion on the predicament of anthropology's situation of 'informants' and the criticism that often follows post-field discussions. The article then moves to discuss TRIPROJECT as a case example of applied anthropology actively involving 'informants' in the process of knowledge gathering and analysis presentation, emphasising how informants had control over the process of scholarship. The article ends by addressing this experience within the context of anthropology and the interpretation of questions and answers between 'informants' and those who study them.
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.
Reflections on Power, Collaboration, and Ethnography in the Anthropology of Policy
This article constitutes a pragmatic consideration of how to orchestrate access to 'powerful' individuals and a theoretical reflection on what efforts to negotiate access reveal about the anthropologist's subterranean assumptions about power, collaboration and ethnographic data. Too frequently, powerful actors and the contemporary settings they inhabit appear to be obstacles to ethnographic research. In contrast, I propose that we explore the ways in which working with powerful actors can enhance, rather than inhibit, the possibilities of anthropological data collection. In this article, I present several examples from my field research in the Mexican government to show how the ethnographic encounter can be constructive of the political process, not jut an appendage to it. By directing attention to the ways in which our actual research practices (and not just our findings) intervene in the political space, we can re-orient our expectations about data and the ontology of anthropological expertise.
This article attempts a preliminary discussion of the three clusters of Archie Mafeje’s work. While Mafeje called for ‘non-disciplinarity’, as against ‘interdisciplinarity’ or ‘disciplinarity’, this article makes a case for why he should be read as a revolutionary sociologist. In so doing, the article pieces together some of the key elements of his oeuvre. The article consists of four main parts. The first part provides some background and contextualises this article. The second part deals with Mafeje’s programmatic critique of the discipline of anthropology and other social sciences. The third part discusses his work on land and agrarian issues in sub-Saharan Africa. The last section focuses on his work on revolutionary theory and politics, with specific reference to his assessment of the responsibility of the African intellectual.
Dustin William Louie
In this article, based on research I conducted in Western Canada, I discuss the significance of the emerging influence of social media on the overrepresentation of Indigenous girls in sexually exploitative situations. In interviews I conducted with Indigenous sexual exploitation survivors and intervention staff I found that social media is being used to recruit Indigenous girls and keep them exploited in three distinct ways: targeting girls in reserve communities and luring them to the city; setting up so-called dates to keep them off the streets; and facilitating constant communication between the victim and victimizer, thus ensuring that girls are perpetually active and reachable. I respond to these by outlining educational possibilities in order to combat the exposure of these girls to predators on social media sites.
Raising the Status of a New Secondary School Type by Means of Mathematical Abstraction
Gerrit F. Gorter, Hilda T. A. Amsing and Jeroen J. H. Dekker
Essential Economics, the influential economics education textbook written by Arnold Heertje for use in Dutch secondary schools in the 1970s, was characterized by a previously unknown and internationally exceptional degree of abstraction. Its users justified this degree of abstraction by arguing that it fulfilled the needs of mental schooling (in line with the formal education argument upheld by defenders of humanism) and that it would enhance the rigorous status of the new type of school known as athenaeum A. In the 1970s, this economics education design was criticized by Herman Hartkamp, who strove to ground economics education on pupil-centered and social meliorist principles. By explaining this struggle and its outcome, this article exposes the various educational ideologies found in textbooks in the segmented Dutch school system.