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Qualitative Research Synthesis

How the Whole Can Be Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

Hanne Riese, Benedicte Carlsen and Claire Glenton

The rise of the knowledge society has led to an increase in the amount of research that is produced and an increased demand from decision makers for summaries of this research. As a result, research syntheses have become increasingly important in applied research, especially within the health sciences. However, this methodology has not been adopted with the same enthusiasm in the field of anthropology. In this article, we describe the main principles of this approach and the history of its development and discuss whether qualitative research synthesis can be seen as compatible with (the goal of) anthropological methodology. Finally, we argue for a greater adoption of research synthesis within applied anthropology and call for a greater engagement from anthropologists in the further development of this methodology.

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Marcela Vásquez-León, Brian Burke and Lucero Radonic

A critical interest of applied anthropology is to educate students to be theoretically grounded and capable of assuming a level of social responsibility that extends beyond academia. In this paper, we reflect on the issue of student preparation for work in the policy arena by focusing on the experiences of a five-year applied research project that examines agricultural cooperatives as situated agents of change and grassroots development. The project has completed three field seasons in Brazil and Paraguay in which student researchers, including anthropology graduate students from the University of Arizona and in-country undergraduate students from partner universities, have been an integral part. The paper focuses on strategies developed in the research process that enhance student learning. Community Based Research, learning to work through research teams, and creating community-university partnerships constitute the bases of a project that emphasises student learning in the process of doing research and forming collaborations.

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Workshop Scribbles, Policy Work and Impact

Anthropological Sensibilities in Praxis at an FASD Workshop

Michelle Stewart

This article reports on a workshop that was held with frontline workers in Canada and discusses the role of anthropological sensibilities as they inform research, community engagement and policy outcomes. The workshop brought together frontline workers to discuss foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, a complex and lifelong disability – one that often raises social-justice concerns. The goal was to facilitate a space in which participants could share their experiences and potentially bring about better outcomes for people living with this disability. The article focuses on the workshop in relationship to anthropological sensibilities, anchored in lateral research practices, with attention to poly-vocality and relational ways of understanding, all of which inform our practice and potential impacts. This article critically analyses the role of applied research as it is informed by other disciplines and concurrently constrained by different forces.

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Glenn Bowman

In the summer of 2003, I spent several weeks in Beit Sahour, the town in which I’ve carried out fieldwork since the late 1980s, observing—amongst other things—the rapacious hunger with which Israel’s ‘Anti-Terrorist Fence’ (more commonly known as ‘the Wall’) consumed Palestinian lands and infrastructure, biting off roads, wells, housing projects, community centers, and other supports of Palestinian life on the West Bank.1 On the northern border of Beit Sahour the Wall was for the most part a bulldozed strip of between 20 and 40 meters in width, containing two 3-meter barbed-wire-topped fences, a ditch, another fence with electronic movement sensors, two raked sand ‘trace strips,’ and a paved patrol road. It meandered through the countryside in what appeared to be an aimless and extravagant manner (extravagant insofar as it costs on average $2,270,000 per kilometer), until I recognized that it ran right along the edge of the inhabited sectors of Beit Sahour and neighboring Bethlehem and Beit Jala, gathering behind it nearly all of the vineyards, the olive groves, the orchards, and other agricultural lands of the local people (according to the Applied Research Institute—Jerusalem walling in the Bethlehem district has resulted in the alienation of 70 square kilometers of the total 608 square kilometers that make up the district).