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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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Introduction

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.

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Ebola and Accusation

Gender Dimensions of Stigma in Sierra Leone’s Ebola Response

Olive Melissa Minor

As Response and Resilience Team Anthropologist for Oxfam GB, my role was to support an inclusive, community-led Ebola response through a better understanding of gender dynamics in the context of the outbreak. This case study identified stigma and blame of affected people as key factors in the ongoing epidemic. Despite social mobilisation efforts to address these attitudes, they remained ingrained in the Ebola response at multiple levels: in Government of Sierra Leone quarantine policies, in community by-laws and in everyday social interactions. Negative attitudes put pressure on the roles of men and women in ways that produced barriers to acting on Ebola prevention and treatment advice or creating an inclusive Ebola response. Our findings prompted several improvements in Ebola response activities that Oxfam Sierra Leone carried forward in their work, demonstrating the key role applied anthropology can play in creating a reflexive process to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian aid.

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Educational Persistence in the Face of Violence

Narratives of Resilient Latino Male Youth

Adrian H. Huerta

Latino boys and young men often carry the debt of violence into different spaces. This invisible trauma manifests into disruptive behaviors in schools. It is well documented that violence in urban communities and schools has received significant attention from researchers, but little attention has been paid to Latino male youth as individuals and the various forms of violence they have experienced, and how that impacts educational persistence. This qualitative study focuses on 26 Latino male middle and high school students who are attending two continuation schools to understand the types of violence they have experienced and their educational aspirations after high school.

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Jon Dean

In The Armies of the Night (1968) and Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968/2008) Norman Mailer details the exploits of the anti-Vietnam war protestors and his role in the protests. With an ethnographer’s eye for detail and a novelist’s eye for imagery, he constructs a picture of youthful fear and exuberance, a totalitarian reaction to protest, and documents an America which he realises is slowing eating itself. In these nonfi ction novels, he places himself at the centre of events, interpreting the data through his own frazzled, drink-fuelled, mischievous self. This article utilises Pierre Bourdieu’s methodological framework of refl exive sociology to both critically analyse Mailer as an ethnographer and qualitative researcher and ask whether inquiry into social protest can be adequately conducted through the autobiographical gaze of a novelist. It is argued that by using such literary resources and techniques, we can, in the spirit of C. Wright Mills, move to a more public sociology where literary techniques are valued, rather than dismissed as unscientific.

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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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The Determination of Educational Policy

Shas, Politics, and Religion

Anat Feldman

This article examines the reasons why countries change their educational policies, using Israel as a case study. Employing quantitative and qualitative methods, I show that political constraints can cause governments to modify their educational policies without professional pedagogical discourse. Using the example of the ultra-Orthodox ethnic political party Shas, I demonstrate how—thanks to the political power that the party had gained, as well as the weakening of nationalist values— it succeeded in establishing a network of party schools with state funding despite the fact that some of these schools teach neither the state’s values nor the core curriculum determined by the Ministry of Education.

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Paul E. Farmer

What are the true costs of war? If anthropologists are to help answer this question, it will be because we can link personal narratives (and qualitative methods) to historically deep and geographically broad analyses of conflict. This essay seeks to explore the costs of armed conflict—the economic, affective, and general social costs of war—by examining the experience of a single family, two generations of it, caught in the midst of two conflicts. Their experience links the United States to Haiti, Cuba, and Iraq. As limited as conclusions might be, in reflecting on these narratives, we might still conclude that the true costs of war are rarely, if ever, gauged.

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Mike Keating, Cathal O'Siochru and Sal Watt

This article describes a C-SAP-funded project evaluating the introduction of a new tutorial programme for first year Sociology students, which sought to integrate a 'skills framework' to enable students to develop a range of academic skills alongside their study of the subject.

The pegagogical and institutional background to the decision to adopt this 'integrated' approach is summarised and the staff and student experiences are then evaluated using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Primarily concerned with evaluating staff and student responses to the new programme, this paper also raises some issues with regard to the methodologies of evaluation.

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Editorial

Imperial crisis and the millennium goals

Monique Nuijten

Poverty is ‘big business’. Donor funds are set to increase substantially as the UN millennium targets—to eradicate extreme poverty and halve the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015—seem ever more out of reach. Small wonder that social science methods to assess levels of poverty and the results of development projects have become a hot issue, too. As much of the research on poverty directly feeds into policy making and donor strategies, people are rightly concerned about its quality. Anthropology has a stake in this debate: despite the hegemony of quantitative methods in development research, participatory rural appraisals and poverty assessments have always drawn upon anthropological methods. One might wonder what happens to these qualitative methods in research that aims to establish quantitative levels of poverty.