The use of Ethnography for Livelihoods Research

de Carvalho, Thaís (2022). The use of Ethnography for Livelihoods Research. In: Nunan, Fiona; Barnes, Clare and Krishnamurthy, Sukanya eds. The Routledge Handbook on Livelihoods in the Global South. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 114–123.



This chapter reviews the value of ethnography to the study of livelihoods. Engaging with debates about livelihoods in development, it argues that cultural values affect people’s behaviour and life decisions. The potential of ethnography lies in its capacity to offer an in-depth holistic picture on a community’s modes of living. The chapter details different stages of an ethnography, from data collection to the final manuscript. It shows how participant observation and its associated modes of intimate inquiry shed light upon aspects of people’s lives that would otherwise remain invisible in research. It also shows how ethnographies combined with document analysis can offer a comprehensive view of external factors impacting people’s lifeways. With illustrative examples, the chapter highlights the benefits of fieldwork to acquire an insider perspective on local livelihood strategies. In addition, it discusses how to render data meaningful for a wider audience when writing ethnography.

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