Canine connections: fieldwork with a dog as research assistant

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-38
Number of pages11
JournalAnthropology in Action
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • Actor - network theory
  • Ambiguity
  • Belfast
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Ethnographic method
  • Interspecies communication


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