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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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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.