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Canine connections : fieldwork with a dog as research assistant

By Karen Lane

Category Journal Articles

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 paper draws on actor-network theory and cosmopolitanism.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2015
Publication Title Anthropology in Action
Volume 22
Issue 3
Pages 27-38
Publisher Berghahn Journals
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Dogs
  3. Human-animal communication
  4. Interspecies interactions
  5. Mammals
  6. open access
  7. Pets and companion animals
  1. open access