Elucidating ethnographic expressions: Progressing ethnographic poetics of vulnerability

Hilary Downey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Narrative accounts of subjective consumer experience are, in one form or another, an essential of qualitative market research. Ethnographic research and ethnographic poetry have obvious connections with the literary form, yet this form has had limited application. Based on the assumption that poetry as a craft is a somewhat limited narrative in ethnographic studies and specifically in studies that attend a consumer vulnerability agenda, this paper aims to contribute to a literary-based perspective. This paper advocates for ethnographic poetry as a consideration of disseminating qualitative data for those researchers immersed in ethnographic research with diverse and vulnerable populations. Design/methodology/approach: The paper draws on a range of extant literature to draw out the distinguishing features of ethnographic poetry, in which to situate ethnographic narratives of two studies of consumer vulnerability. To assist in this, scholarly discussion in the paper is interposed with a series of interludes written in the ethnographic poetic style. These interludes are intended to epitomise merits of such an interpretive research approach. Findings: This is a research paper seeking to draw attention to, and develop a relatively neglected research approach, ethnographic poetry. Researcher reflections, drawn from two ethnographic studies, suggest some tangible consequences of this research to generate further discussion of consumer vulnerability. Research limitations/implications: The overall aim is to extend discussion of the particular qualities of ethnographic poetry that might contribute to better serve qualitative research approaches, when conducting ethnographic research. Practical implications: The paper advocates a stronger focus on ethnographic poetry to liberate the imagination of researchers and readers alike to enrich and compliment the analysis of narrative forms of qualitative data drawn from an ethnographic approach. Originality/value: This paper addresses the concept of ethnographic poetry, stemming from narrative-based qualitative research, which will be entirely new to many researchers and practitioners. It suggests tangible benefits that this new perception could bring to ethnographic research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2651-2674
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 06 Dec 2019


  • Chronic illness
  • Consumer vulnerability
  • Disability
  • Ethnographic poetry
  • Ethnography
  • Innovative research methods
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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