Canine Connections

Fieldwork with a Dog as Research Assistant

in Anthropology in Action
Author: Karen Lane 1
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  • 1 University of St Andrews kll5@st-andrews.ac.uk

My research seeks out muted narratives that struggle to be heard in the contested city of Belfast. My dog is one of my ethnographic methods: dog-walking is rarely a direct journey from A to B and she can 'authenticate' my lingering presence in unfamiliar places; she is a gateway to dog-focused communal activities; and her categorisation of people is based on smell, not politics, religion or country of origin. When encountering random strangers with an attractive and friendly dog, her role is obvious: introduction enacted, anthropologist takes over. But does she simply mediate the encounter or does she shape what happens? The relationship between dog and person is reciprocal and the extent to which each actor responds to the other prolongs and moulds the encounter. Can she elicit stories that may not otherwise be told, do more than 'only connect'? This article draws on actor-network theory and cosmopolitanism.

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Anthropology in Action

Journal for Applied Anthropology in Policy and Practice

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