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The language of poverty: an exploration of the narratives of the poor


  • Federica Misturelli
  • Claire Heffernan


Within the development discourse, the narratives of the poor are a well utilized rhetorical tool to describe poverty and its causes. However, narratives can also reveal the beliefs and ‘world-view’ of the narrators. To explore this influence, the authors applied a discursive approach, to deconstruct the narratives of 101 slum dwellers in Kibera, Nairobi. The results revealed that poverty was largely attributed to external constraints, beyond an individual's control. Despite wanting a better life, participants held low expectations for the future. Hopes and dreams were placed on their children. While risk and uncertainty was a constant theme, large differences were found between genders as to the aspirations for the future. Copyright (C) 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.

Suggested Citation

  • Federica Misturelli & Claire Heffernan, 2011. "The language of poverty: an exploration of the narratives of the poor," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(3), pages 206-222, May/June.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:sustdv:v:19:y:2011:i:3:p:206-222

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    Cited by:

    1. Sandra Contzen, 2015. "«Wir sind nicht arm»! Diskursive Konstruktionen von Armut von Schweizer Bauernfamilien," Journal of Socio-Economics in Agriculture (Until 2015: Yearbook of Socioeconomics in Agriculture), Swiss Society for Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, vol. 8(1), pages 60-69.


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