Dr Olivia Howland


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Olivia’s current research project explores long term livelihood change in Tanzania in collaboration with Professor Daniel Brockington, collaborating with a number of fellow Tanzania-focused researchers in various disciplines. This project aims to unlock significant insights into local notions of wealth and poverty, asset ownership, and the longitudinal effect of crop price fluctuation on rural subsistence farmers and their domestic units. Recent survey data is used to re-survey these same domestic units as far as is practically possible in order to provide a picture of long term change, or indeed stability.

Olivia’s doctoral research is an ethnographic study of home brewed alcohol in rural Kenya, with the thesis entitled ‘Drinking, Despair and The State: An Ethnography of a Brewing Subculture in Rural Kenya’.

The research was conducted using a mixed methods ethnographic approach including participant observation, focus groups, informal interviews, drawing exercises with children, body mapping, life story interviews and oral histories, community mapping, reflexive focus groups, photography. Olivia worked as a Mama Pima (the woman who serves the beer). These methods were chosen for their sensitivity to the local community and because Olivia has an established relationship with the people there. Some of these methods had been successfully utilised in previous research by the researcher in this community. Research took place over a period of three years from 2011-2014, with around 24 months spent in the field.

Home brewed beers are an integral part of the local economy, providing employment and financial independence for many women, enabling them to send their children to school and look after their families. The study uses the concepts of structural violence and demasculinity as analytical perspectives to explain and rationalise the behaviour of drinkers, brewers and other relevant actors within the study site.

Former research includes a brief study of the invention of tradition as an economic tool for tourism in Kenya, and a more in-depth study of rural access to, and utilisation of, electricity in Kenya.

Read more about Olivia here.