Centre for Rural Economy

Staff Profile

Dr Elizabeth Oughton

Principal Research Associate


My research has two main themes that run through it: the first theme is the significance of the household as a site in which decisions are made about provisioning and the importance of household relations in affecting these decisions. I have explored these issues over the past ten years both theoretically and empirically. The theoretical underpinning of my work has been Amartya Sen's Capabilities Approach, using and operationalising concepts of wellbeing to the achievements of capabilities.  I first used these ideas in my PhD work in Western India and since then have developed the application and framework in projects in the UK, Central and Eastern Europe, Jordan and, most recently, Sub-Saharan Africa. Control and use of resources within the household is played out through relations of power: of gender, age and position within the household. The institutions that affect the relations of power are both formal and informal and are thus linked explicitly to systems of governance in rural development.

One stream of work has involved the study of members of micro-business households, mostly in the UK and northern Europe, and the ways in which they achieve wellbeing through the establishment and development of their businesses. The second stream has related more strongly to the household in the natural environment and has been carried out in Central Europe, Jordan and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Most recently I have been exploring household livelihoods through research in the EU funded WHaTeR programme http://whater.eu/  Through projects in Burkina Faso and Ethiopia I have been looking at the ways in which household livelihoods and improved food security of the household relate to the use of water harvesting technologies and the factors that constrain or support the uptake of improved technologies.

The second maor theme of my work has been a developing interest in the practices of interdisciplinarity in academic studies and in particular the application of interdisciplinary research to livelihood creation in rural environments. These interests have been followed through substantive research projects funded under the Rural Economy and Land Use Programme http://www.relu.ac.uk/ . In our first project, Relating physical and social science perspectives on the use of rural catchments  http://relu.data-archive.ac.uk/explore-data/search-browse/project/?ID=RES-224-25-0058 we uncovered and developed the significance of language to the success of interdisciplinary projects. Building on this work went on to explore further the Angling in the Rural Environment  http://relu.data-archive.ac.uk/explore-data/search-browse/project/?ID=RES-227-25-0002 and environmental decision making across borders, both  disciplinary and  institutional, in the Managing borderlands: adaptive decision making among specialists and non-specialists http://relu.data-archive.ac.uk/explore-data/search-browse/project/?ID=RES-240-25-0020 .

Research council funded projects have been complemented by a number of shorter pieces of work for DEFRA and local environmental stakeholders such as Cheviot Futures http://www.cheviotfutures.co.uk/phpdocuments/63.pdf .