Ethnographic Intervention in Policy Settings


Feb. 23, 2017, 2:30pm to 3:30pm

Campus Location

Office/Remote Location



Ideas with anthropological roots such as participation have at various times influenced international development policy and practice. Efforts by international donor agencies to enable greater ‘ownership’ of development assistance as part of national policy reform processes in developing countries in the form of ‘sector wide approaches’ offer new opportunities for types of anthropological engagement that go beyond the level of the project to engage with policy processes more widely. One example of this is the Swedish government’s recent health and education ‘reality check’ approach in Bangladesh which aimed to understand the grassroots experiences of people 'on the receiving end' of policies. This was a five-year initiative that sent information gathering teams to live with low income households for short periods in order to gain insights that could then be fed back into the higher level policy making processes being carried out by donors and government. It drew on at least three different traditions for its inspiration – anthropological participant observation, participatory methods and the medical research ‘listening study’ tradition. This paper, which is work in progress, offers a critical reflection on this experience.

Dr. David Lewis is professor of social policy and development at the London School of Economics and Political Science. A social anthropologist and rural sociologist by training, he has degrees from the Universities of Cambridge and Bath. His research focuses on the theory and practice of international development, with a specialization in social development policy, rural development and the roles of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). He has undertaken fieldwork mostly in South and South East Asia (Bangladesh, the Philippines, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka). He has also worked in Albania, Russia, and the West Bank.

Admission Information

Admission is free and open to the general public. 

Contact Information

Department of Anthropology
Barbara Roth

External Sponsor

Department of Anthropology, UNLV