Since its inception, the discipline of International Relations has struggled to establish the rigour of its methodological base in the academy, and it has struggled to establish whether and how it might have any moral place in the world. At the end of the millennium both struggles have reached a high point. Methodologically, the discipline has begun a trans-Atlantic separation. On the one hand there has been a U.S. emphasis on neo-realism and neo-liberalism, which in both its categorisations and its positivistic tendencies is not a considerable departure from the inter-war debate between realists and idealists. On the other hand there has been a British concern not only for a ‘historicised’ discipline, but for the intellectual history of the discipline itself. Steve Smith has written on ten self-images that International Relations has held.
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.
Ethnographic Insights from Senegal
Diane Duclos, Sylvain L. Faye, Tidiane Ndoye and Loveday Penn-Kekana
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.
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.
A Methodological Inquiry into Reception in the History of Ideas
This article addresses the methodological issues involved in the study of interlingual translation as an avenue of reception in the history of ideas. In particular, it assesses the possible uses of linguistic contextualism and conceptual history (Begriffsgeschichte) in this endeavour. It argues that both of these approaches have been, or are capable of being, far more sensitive towards the phenomenon of reception and, indeed, this is an area where cross-fertilization between them (often commended in general but rarely if ever in specific terms) is a practical possibility. Perspectives from Rezeptionsgeschichte may provide useful tools for building bridges between them. A few case studies in translation history are then critically examined, and on the basis of the foregoing methodological reflections propositions are made for further refining the approach taken in those case studies.
This article discusses the current confusion surrounding qualitative methods in demographic and health research that prevails amongst young researchers in Arab countries. It presents the author’s reflections on years of train- ing researchers from the region in qualitative methods and the frustrations of differentiating between qualitative methods, qualitative methodology and anthropology in the midst of rising demands to produce a critical Arab social science.
In this article Merriman responds to Gijs Mom's suggestion that mobility historians should develop a common research agenda, formulate big questions, and adopt a transnational and comparative approach. In reply, Merriman suggests that dissensus and multiple approaches have their advantages, and highlights the ongoing importance of the national as a frame of understanding, as well as the importance of spatially sensitive approaches that pose clear challenges to comparative methodologies.
Rethinking the Politics of Engagement
Xuan Thuy Nguyen
In this article I describe how participatory visual methodologies can be used to construct knowledge on inclusion and exclusion with girls with disabilities in Vietnam. I suggest that this approach can shape knowledge on inclusion in relation to disability and girlhood through its engagement with the voices of girls with disabilities. This case study represents a decolonizing approach for understanding the experiences of disabled girls in the Global South in ways that challenge the Western framing of disability and girlhood.
Between Theory, Ethnography, and Method
Martin Holbraad, Sarah Green, Alberto Corsín Jiménez, Veena Das, Nurit Bird-David, Eduardo Kohn, Ghassan Hage, Laura Bear, Hannah Knox and Bruce Kapferer
Recent years in anthropology have seen a noticeable trend, moving from debates about theory to a concern with method. So while some generations ago we would tend to identify ourselves as anthropologists with reference to particular theoretical paradigms—for example, Marxism, (post-)structuralism, cognitivism, cultural materialism, interpretivism—these days our tendency is to align ourselves, often eclectically, with proposals conceived as methodological: entanglements, assemblages, ontologies, technologies of description, epistemic partnerships, problematizations, collaborative anthropology, the art of noticing, and so on.
Archaeology, Ritual, and Religion
This article is an introduction to the emerging sub-discipline of the archaeology of ritual and religion. It addresses the question of how archaeologists can approach these fields: what are the challenges and opportunities? Using theory and methodology, ritual and religion are explored in the archaeological record by means of so-called framing, and an interpretation is attempted through analogy and 'ethos'. Selected Neolithic sites from the Near East that have yielded rich and important data regarding ritual and religion serve as examples.