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John R. Campbell

This article explores the relation between theory and method in three methodologically innovative studies of rural poverty. The issue is pertinent because the nature of research on poverty has shifted from small-scale qualitative studies to large surveys, and to national-scale studies that combine qualitative and quantitative methods in an effort to inform policy makers on appropriate poverty reduction strategies. The interest in combined methods holds considerable promise for poverty research because it links a search for 'objective' economic concerns to the analysis of 'subjective' and context-specific issues. It is instructive to examine recent studies of poverty that have pursued different theoretical and methodological choices with a view to understand how 'theory' influenced methodological choices, and whether and how such choices influenced their understanding of poverty.

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Methods for Multispecies Anthropology

Thinking with Salmon Otoliths and Scales

Heather Anne Swanson

This article proposes that multispecies anthropology and its curiosities about non-humans constitute a ‘minor anthropology’ that poses challenges not only to anthropological categories, but also to anthropological methods. Through attention to Pacific salmon, I probe why and how anthropologists might explore the ways non-humans know and enact worlds via collaborations with natural scientists. Working with biologists, I examine salmon scales and otoliths, or ear bones, whose crystallization patterns act as a kind of fish diary, recording a fish’s migrations and relations. I take up these methods with an anthropological eye, asking how one might use such practices to learn about multispecies encounters that classical ethnography often misses. Lastly, I demonstrate how anthropologists can engage natural science tools while remaining alert to the politics of knowing.

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Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

This is the first issue of Girlhood Studies that we have devoted primarily to method and methodology related to deepening an understanding of girlhood and girls’ lives. From the very inception of the journal in 2008 we imagined that there would be themed issues devoted to what we have termed “girl-method” (Mitchell and Reid-Walsh 2009: 214), so as to explore the various approaches to studying girlhood, and especially to make explicit the positionality of feminist researchers writing in academic contexts about girlhood. We frame this project as one that aims to be productive and generative and able to take its place alongside transformative themes in feminist methodology, as we see, for example, in the work of Burt and Code (1995) Changing Methods: Feminists Transforming Practice, and Creese and Frisby (2011) Feminist Community Research. However, even though there has been a rich body of work and a long history of research that addresses the nuances of women researching women, particularly in the area of the autobiographical such as, for example, Ann Oakley’s (1981) ground breaking article “Interviewing women: A contradiction in terms,” there remain gaps in feminist discourse that concerns itself with a framework to name and explicate method work that seeks to address working with girls, for girls and about girlhood. Making method, then, seems to us to be a useful framing term to talk about methodology and method in the area of girlhood studies. In one sense the term can signal the idea of making in relation to becoming as a feature of the social constructions of girlhood and the highly contextualized question of “Who is a girl anyway?” It also picks up on the idea of claiming and creating an identity as we see in Gerry Bloustien’s (2004) notion of girl-making in her work with adolescent girls and video-making. But it also speaks to the need for alternative approaches to making meaning, and so, as feminist researchers working in this area, we may find ourselves making it up, in much the same way that Oakley and others have done, and, in so doing, acknowledging the limitations of more conventional forms of working with qualitative data in social research.

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Murphy Out of Place

Ethnographic Anxiety and Its 'Telling' Consequences

Liam D. Murphy

In Belfast, Northern Ireland, as elsewhere, myriad problems of epistemology and research design confront ethnographers entering the field for the first time. While these often remain a permanently taxing wellspring of frustration and anxiety, their apparent resolution through experience can occasionally lull researchers into a false sense of security in the context of social interaction with field respondents. By exploring an instance in which the author neglected to apply his understanding of the important Northern Ireland phenomenon of 'telling', the article shows how method and epistemology should always be borne in mind during fieldwork situations—even those implicitly discounted a priori as nonethnographic. While such relaxation of self-awareness may precipitate various blunders and ethnographic faux-pas, it also opens up spaces of critical inquiry into the collaborative constitution of selves and others in field situations, and refocuses the ethnographer's awareness of his positioning as an outsider in webs of social activity.

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Tending to Suspension

Abstraction and Apparatuses of Atmospheric Attunement in Matsutake Worlds

Timothy Choy

Scenes from mushroom technosciences illuminate forms, practices, and temporalities of atmospheric attunement. This article reanimates moments from scientific literature where chemists and mycologists chase elusive smells and spores, explicating how scientists’ experimental apparatuses of attunement arrange conditions for matsutake to be reduced and concentrated toward the goal of sensibility. Reduction and concentration do more than translate atmospheric elusiveness into specification; achieved through grinding, evaporating, and remixing, they condition a ‘tending to suspension’. Tending to suspension amplifies qualities and throws subjects and sensorial attention into the middle of volumes and durations. ‘Tending’ implies care as well as a ‘tending toward’—the sense that something may develop a tendency. Experimental apparatuses of atmospheric attunement, tending to such tendings, model a method for anthropological study of diffuse objects.

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Designing a New Method of Studying Feature-Length Films

An Empirical Study and its Critical Analysis

Jose Cañas-Bajo, Teresa Cañas-Bajo, Eleni Berki, Juri-Petri Valtanen and Pertti Saariluoma

Measuring viewers’ experiences of films has become a critical issue for filmmakers because all kinds of audiences now have access to new releases from all over the world. Some approaches have focused on the cognitive level of the experience, while others have emphasized the structure of films. Additionally, some have used quantitative objective methods to examine audience reactions to short film sequences, while others have applied qualitative approaches to study feature-length films. However, an integrated method that combines the features of these approaches is needed. In this article, we describe a new method that combines quantitative and qualitative data to study viewers’ experiences of different structural features of films. This method involves an online subjective response mechanism that can be used to capture and measure the experiences of different target audiences as they watch movies of different lengths.

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Matthew C. Ally

This essay revisits the question of Sartre's method with particular emphasis on the posthumously published Notebooks for an Ethics, Critique of Dialectical Reason (Volume II), and “Morale et histoire.” I argue that Sartre's method—an ever-evolving though never seamless blend of phenomenological description, dialectical analysis, and logical inference—is at once the seed and fruit of his mature ontology of praxis. Free organic praxis, what Sartre more than once calls “the human act,” is neither closed nor integral, but is rather intrinsically open-ended and integrative. Thus a philosophical method that seeks at once to illuminate human experience and human history must itself be both a reflection and inflection of the essential openness and integrativity of praxis itself. In the conclusion, I argue that the openness and integrativity of Sartre's method are its core strengths and the sources of its continued philosophical worth.

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Marian Kempny

This article examines the question of whether the notion of the 'Manchester School' functions as a description of a separate type of anthropological practice. Basic historical aspects of this school's tradition are scrutinized. These are as follows: its Africanist roots, its Oxford lineage, the personal leadership of Max Gluckman, and the Manchester seminar, renowned as a hotbed of innovation in social anthropology. Elucidating the significance of the extended-case method as theoretically laden, the article seeks to clarify what could turn Mancunian anthropology into a scientific 'school' in the strict sense of the term.

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Hania Sholkamy

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.

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Methods Applied

Political Transformation and Recent Ethnographic Fieldwork in Iran

Mary Elaine Hegland and Erika Friedl

In the 1970s social cultural anthropology in Iran was beginning to flourish. However, with the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the subsequent Islamic Republic of Iran, fieldwork in Iran became extremely problematic. Foreign anthropologists faced formidable obstacles to obtaining visas and permits. Anthropologists working inside Iran were also discouraged from anthropological participant observation. As a result, during the post revolutionary period, few anthropologists have been conducting fieldwork in Iran. Recently, some hopeful signs for a possible reestablishment of anthropology can be noted, among them the return of young Iranian anthropologists, from countries where they have grown up and gained an education, to their homeland for dissertation research. This article discusses the influences on fieldwork of politics—international, national and local—and projects, problems and strategies of some anthropologists who have conducted recent ethnographic fieldwork in Iran.