Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Qualitative methods in globalisation studies : or, saying something about the world without counting or inventing it

By Sian Sullivan and Dan Brockington


This paper originally appeared as a book chapter in a volume oriented towards social science graduate students preparing for fieldwork, primarily in ‘developing country’ contexts. It has been reworked extensively here as a contribution for a recent CSGR seminar series by core research staff regarding our methodological approaches to research. As such, the paper provides an overview of some qualitative research methods in the social sciences, and of their relevance for conducting research in a continuing context of ‘globalisation’: which here refers to increasing supraterritoriality in domains of human organisation, and the relative collapsing of temporal and spatial scales that this implies. We focus on three key methodological domains: participant observation (and/or observant participation), oral testimony and the production of ethnographic texts; discourse analysis; and considerations of the subjective implied by phenomenological and embodiment approaches. We also make some comments regarding relationships between qualitative and quantitative methods and the implications of these different tools for engagement in terms of the information they yield. We observe that it is not so much research methods that have changed under contemporary globalisation processes. Rather, we note that orientations to research and to the interpretation of ‘findings’ - particularly in relation to certainty, to the implications of notions of difference and ‘the other’, and to aspirations of objectivity - have been much affected by the intertwined theoretical fields of poststructuralism, postcolonialism and feminism. Thus by highlighting the infusion of power in research praxis as in social relations more generally, we acknowledge the always politically constitutive role(s) of academic engagement

Topics: H1, JZ
Publisher: University of Warwick. Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation
Year: 2004
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1967). A diary in the strict sense of the term. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul.
  2. (1988). A thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia (translation and foreword by Brain Massumi), The Athlone Press, doi
  3. (1998). Acts of resistance: against the tyranny of the market, trans. by
  4. (1995). At home in the universe: the search for laws of self-organisation and complexity. London, doi
  5. (1992). At the desert's edge: oral histories from the Sahel. doi
  6. (1962). Being and time. doi
  7. (2003). Being there...and there...and there! Reflections on multi-site ethnography. doi
  8. (2001). Communal property and degradation narratives. debating the Sukuma immigration into Rukwa Region,
  9. (2000). Complexity theory and the challenges to democracy in the 21 st century.
  10. (1996). Constructing Nature. Elements for a poststructural political ecology.
  11. (1974). Course in General Linguistics. doi
  12. (2001). Degradation debates and data deficiencies. doi
  13. (1977). Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison. doi
  14. (1977). Écrits: a selection. doi
  15. (1999). Embodiment and cultural phenomenology. doi
  16. (1995). Encountering development: the making and unmaking of the Third World. doi
  17. (1996). Escape velocity: cyberculture at the end of the century. doi
  18. (1996). Ethnography as a practice, or the unimportance of penguins.
  19. (2002). Fortress Conservation: The Preservation of the Mkomazi Game Reserve, Tanzania, James Currey, doi
  20. (2004). Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [On-line Journal] 4(2). Available at: [accessed 2
  21. (1999). Grandmother's footsteps: oral tradition and south-east Angolan narratives on the colonial encounter. doi
  22. (1989). I write what I like: a selection of writings. doi
  23. (1995). In search of respect. Selling crack in El Barrio. Cambridge, doi
  24. (1986). Introduction: partial truths.
  25. (1998). Land loss and livelihoods. The effects of eviction on pastoralists moved from the Mkomazi Game Reserve, doi
  26. (1991). Language in the news: discourse and ideology in the press. doi
  27. (1990). Madness and civilisation: a history of insanity in the age of reason. doi
  28. (2001). Masculine domination, doi
  29. (1996). Misreading the African landscape: society and ecology in a forest-savanna mosaic. Cambridge and New York, doi
  30. (1996). Naked science: anthropological inquiry into boundaries, power and knowledge. doi
  31. (1996). Nuer Dilemmas: coping with money, war and the state. doi
  32. (1976). Of Grammatology. doi
  33. (1962). Phenomenology of perception. doi
  34. (1999). Poverty and the pastoralist: deconstructing myths, reconstructing realities.
  35. (1997). Psychoanalysis and the polis. doi
  36. (1999). Qualitative research. doi
  37. (2000). Rethinking pastoralism in Africa: gender, culture and the myth of the patriarchal pastoralist, James Currey, doi
  38. (1971). Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, doi
  39. (2001). Spatialities and the feeling of doing. doi
  40. (1998). Stonehenge: making space. doi
  41. (2003). Subjectivity and reflexivity in qualitative research - the FQS issues.
  42. (1997). The application of ethnographic methodology in the study of cybersex,
  43. (2000). The Bushman myth: the making of a Namibian underclass. doi
  44. (1984). The Chicago school of sociology. doi
  45. (1980). The death of nature: women, ecology and the scientific revolution. doi
  46. (2002). The future of globalization. Cooperation and Conflict: doi
  47. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. doi
  48. (1996). The lie of the land. Challenging received wisdom on the African environment. doi
  49. (1990). The logic of practice, doi
  50. (1940). The Nuer: a description of the modes of livelihood and political institutions of a Nilotic people. doi
  51. (1997). The other: woman. doi
  52. (2000). The perception of the environment: essays in livelihood, dwelling and skill. doi
  53. (1982). The political economy of West African agriculture. Cambridge, doi
  54. (1967). The politics of experience and the bird of paradise,
  55. (1984). The postmodern condition: a report on knowledge. doi
  56. (2001). The power of violence in war and peace: post-Cold War lessons from El Salvador’, Ethnography, doi
  57. (1988). The predicament of culture: twentieth century ethnography, literature and art. doi
  58. (1980). The self-organising universe: scientific and human implications of the emerging paradigm of evolution.
  59. (2000). The stat(u)s of Namibian anthropology: a review.
  60. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions, 2nd edition. London, doi
  61. (2002). The way of love. doi
  62. (1998). The will to knowledge: the history of sexuality, doi
  63. (1967). The wretched of the earth. doi
  64. (1983). Time and the other: how anthropology makes its object. doi
  65. (1999). Towards an ethics of the open subject: writing culture in good conscience.
  66. (1998). Vagrancy, law & “shadow knowledge”: internal pacification 1915-1939,
  67. (1993). We have never been modern. Hemel Hempstead, Harvester Wheatsheaf. doi
  68. (2003). What have the Romans ever done for us?” Academic and activist forms of theorising’, On-line. Available HTTP: (accessed 20
  69. (1992). What's wrong with ethnography? Methodological explorations. doi
  70. (1997). When war came the cattle slept…" Himba oral traditions. doi
  71. (2002). Wholeness and implicate order. doi
  72. (1986). Women's ways of knowing: the development of self, voice, and mind. doi
  73. (1986). Writing Culture: the poetics and politics of ethnography. doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.