The power and limits of numbers: an ethnography of a survey on background radiation and health

Kaur, Raminder (2013) The power and limits of numbers: an ethnography of a survey on background radiation and health. ASA online: Journal of Association of Social Anthropologists. ISSN 2073-4158

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By considering the characteristics of quantitative and qualitative work as epitomised in survey work and ethnographic fieldwork respectively, this article explores the ‘performative contradiction’ of their understanding in anthropology and amongst my interlocutors in south India. The epistemological rationale for qualitative research was deemed inconsequential when compared to the strategic uses of, and empowerment that quantitative research was deemed to provide. Significantly, these are surveys that are not done on them but for or by them – that is, the collation of statistics that they could operationalise according to their own agendas. Their views encouraged me to think elliptically about the methodology I adopted, such that I decided to pursue an ethnography of a survey conducted by them. This entailed contextualising the rationale, processes and consequences of tactical survey work with what may be called a reflexive, discursive and engaged approach to quantitative research

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology > GN301 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology > GN378 Collected ethnographies
Depositing User: Raminder Kaur
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2012 10:54
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2019 12:46

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