Counting Populations, Understanding Societies: Towards a by Véronique Petit

By Véronique Petit

The center objective of this booklet is to figure out how anthropology and demography can be utilized in conjunction within the box of inhabitants and improvement.

The barriers of demography usually are not as sincerely outlined or as good as one could imagine, specially in view of the strain among a proper demography headquartered at the ‘core of strategies and references’ and a extra open kind of demography, usually often called inhabitants Studies.

Many rapprochements, neglected possibilities and remoted makes an attempt marked the disciplinary historical past of anthropology and demography, either disciplines being based on targeted and hugely differentiated traditions and practices. additionally, the position and where assigned to epistemology vary considerably in ethnology and demography. but, anthropology and demography offer complementary versions and examine tools and this ebook exhibits that neither self-discipline can come up with the money for to miss their respective contributions.

Based on learn carried out in West Africa over greater than two decades, it's a safety of box demography that makes case for a continuum starting from the preliminary belief of fieldwork and study to its potent implementation and to information research. alterations in behaviors with regards to fertility, poverty or migration can't be interpreted with out invoking the cultural issue at a few degree. Representations of their collective and person dimensions additionally healthy into the prolonged explanatory house of demography.

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Based on objective descriptions, the surveys were designed to take the full measure of exceptional events and circumstances and to define the measures required to remedy the resulting issues. Surveys and censuses were largely driven by the need for the state to maintain order by guaranteeing a minimum level of food and health security. Surveys often had specific tax objectives: in 1686, Maréchal Vauban aimed to reform taxation (the taille) in a work entitled Méthode facile pour faire le dénombrement des populations.

The latter goes beyond measurement by examining the causes that generated the observed phenomena and their effects on population structures or socio-demographic behaviors’ 32 3 The Contours of a Social Science (Chesnais 1990: 3). It is worth noting that the use of the adjective ‘pure’ describing demography implies that the discipline was originally perfect and that the mere fact of opening it up would only serve to sully it and to strip it of its ideal status. The implication is that only measurement is perfect in essence, whereas explanation, since it extends beyond the strict field of demography, is by its very nature imperfect because of its complexity.

In a study conducted on the Guayaki Indians, the ethnologist Pierre Clastres illustrated this emphasis in his description of the birth of a child in the Amazonian night (Clastres 2006: 26–29). While they are both the outcome of a biological process, birth and death depend to a great extent on the context in which they occur – that is, the cultural context, the social context and the technical context. Research on measles, plague and HIV/AIDS indicates that the spread of and fight against these epidemics cannot be understood if the analysis is reduced to a strictly demo-epidemiological approach.

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