A case study of a research collaboration on children’s health in Mali
Based on fieldwork in Mali this paper discusses the role of anthropology (and the anthropologist) in a large public health research project on children's health. In the uncertainty and disquiet that comes with the battle to combat and avoid diseases in a setting where poverty and abysmal diseases are part of everyday life, children are often the most vulnerable. The project was carried out to shed light on mainly two types of diseases - malaria and diarrheal diseases - that strike children. In practice the academic backgrounds of the researchers played a role in the methodological approach to the field. By emphasizing the logos in methodology this paper wishes to underscore that where anthropology sets itself apart from public health is, among other, in the way anthropologists think about method and how this affects fieldwork practices as well as analyses. By tracing two concepts, hygiene and children (both at once emic as well as etic) in a specific project, the paper shows how anthropology can contribute to an analysis that aims at avoiding reifications of conventional analytical assumptions. All in all the paper argues that the main role of anthropology in public health research, is the ability to move beyond even the best hidden assumptions and question our own questions, thereby enabling us to ask the right questions.
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12th biannual conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists, 2012