Ethnology: An International Journal of Cultural and Social Anthropology, Vol 51, No 2 (2012)

EPIDEMIC SUICIDE IN A LAHU COMMUNITY: CONVERGING QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE METHODS

Shanshan Du

Abstract


This article explores an epidemic of love-suicide in a Lahu community of southwest China in the 1950s. Suicide’s rarity and the methodological constraints of ethnographic fieldwork have severely hampered attempts to understand suicide cross-culturally. Using qualitative and quantitative research methods in a longitudinal fieldwork study provides insights regarding the patterns of suicide in a marginalized ethnic group. By developing a “retrospective survey” of suicide based on cluster sampling, this research demonstrates how to effectively incorporate a quantitative dimension in community-based fieldwork. This helps develop better ethnographic methods for documenting suicide and providing better data for cross-cultural comparison.

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