Field Analysis and Policy Ethnography in
the Study of Health Social Movements
Phil Brown, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Stephen Zavestoski, Laura Senier, Rebecca Gasior Altman, Elizabeth Hoover, Sabrina McCormick, Brian Mayer, and Crystal Adams
This chapter presents new analytical and methodological approaches to studying social movements. We develop two theoretical concepts, “field analysis” and “policy ethnography,” and explore how each contributes to the study of health social movements. Field analysis is a qualitative approach through which social movements can be situated within multifaceted social and institutional spheres that include diverse strategic allies and coalition partners. The social and institutional spheres we consider include government, academic, scientific, as well as public and nonprofit civic organizations. Policy ethnography, which employs field analysis as one analytical tool, combines organizational and policy analysis with ethnographic observations and interviews, and has a policy goal in mind. In some cases, those carrying out policy ethnography are themselves acting in the policy realm. These methods move beyond simplified notions of researcher and subject, and acknowledge the contributions that researchers themselves may have on social movements and policy outcomes.
Before describing these methods in more detail, we first define health social movements and acknowledge how their unique features prompted methodological innovation. Health Social Movements challenge political power, professional authority, and personal and collective identity. For purposes of discussion, Health Social Movements can loosely be grouped into three categories, though we have found, too, that most movements blur these distinctions in interesting ways. Health Access Movements seek equitable access to health care and improved provision of health care services, such as movements seeking national health care reform. Constituency-Based Health