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Counting Civilian CasualtiesAn Introduction to Recording and Estimating Nonmilitary Deaths in Conflict$
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Taylor B. Seybolt, Jay D. Aronson, and Baruch Fischhoff

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199977307

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199977307.001.0001

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Collecting Data on Civilian Casualties

Collecting Data on Civilian Casualties

Scientific Challenges and Ethnographic Solutions

Chapter:
(p.123) 7 Collecting Data on Civilian Casualties
Source:
Counting Civilian Casualties
Author(s):

Meghan Foster Lynch

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199977307.003.0007

Based on evidence collected during 18 months of fieldwork in rural Burundi, this chapter argues that to obtain accurate information about sensitive issues, ethnography does better than surveys because it is uniquely equipped to deal with issues of culture, trust, and contradiction. There are strong reasons to believe that even current best practices in survey methods may be missing systematic lies that ethnographic methods can often detect. This chapter shows how respondents answer questions about sensitive topics in unexpected ways and suggests a three-part classification of reasons people may have for modifying their responses. For example, an ethnographer’s interview techniques can produce more narratives about stigmatized behavior that ae more useful than those resulting from standard surveys. Whether the goal is to explain political violence, develop policy prescriptions to prevent and resolve conflict, or prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity, rigorous ethnography arguably does a better job than surveys.

Keywords:   ethnographic methods, interview techniques, civil war, civilian casualty counts, narratives, stigmatized behavior, survey methods, Burundi

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