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

Federica Misturelli*, Claire Heffernan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


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 101slum 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-222
Number of pages17
JournalSustainable Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


  • Discourse analysis
  • Language
  • Narratives
  • Poor livestock keepers
  • Urban poverty


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