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Savings and Credit Associations: Reflecting on Ethnographic Research in South Africa

By: Published: 2019 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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The research described in this case study used an 18-month ethnographic design to uncover local-level perspectives of informal savings associations in South Africa’s Limpopo Province. Through a comparative case study, this research found that women in the two Venda villages under study used four different types of informal savings associations to maintain control over their income. This case study explores the evolution of the research design, from conceptualization, to proposal, research, and data analysis, to show how the use of ethnographic methods provided insight into the operations of the savings associations in the villages. The research embraced a qualitative design, where the researcher aimed to gain an emic perspective by adopting the methods and techniques used by ethnographers. The case study discusses the researcher’s experiences using several methods including participant observation and open-ended, semi-structured, and focus group interviews, and surveys. These methods all fed into each other, influencing the line of inquiry throughout the research, making the design an iterative process. The researcher reflects on lessons learned, including preserving data, early and constant analysis, the sequencing of methods, and ethical issues. This case study concludes with a reflection on the skills needed to use ethnographic methods effectively.

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