Demography has historically positioned itself as the quantitative science of counting and understanding population dynamics past, present, and future. However, over the last four decades, this positioning as apolitical and athereotical has been challenged from both within demography and through interactions with other disciplines. Qualitative demographic enquiry has emerged as greater attention is paid to the mechanisms that underpin population behaviours, alongside acknowledgement of the limitations of quantitative approaches. In-depth interviews and focus group discussions comprise the bulwark of this new, social demographic research. Yet this epistemological development has been fraught, and qualitative research remains marginalised. This chapter presents the history and background from which qualitative demographic research emerged. It explores how qualitative research interrogated existing demographic research and evidence, offering insight into the role of politics and power in survey and census tools, as well as engaging populations made marginal across social contexts. As the future of demography becomes ever more focused on the social, we consider the potentials in novel methods, as well as the possibilities of a more integrated, complementary methodological approach to the discipline.
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