The starting point for this paper is understanding livelihoods in politically tense, contested landscapes. It is based upon PhD research conducted in the Middle East in 2010, within the field of humanitarian mine action. It explores the impact mines and cluster munitions, and their clearance, had on 63 households across two communities in southern Lebanon. These communities lay within 20 kilometres of the United Nations delineated Blue Line: the militarised Lebanon/Israel border. The paper has three primary aims: given the research context of military actors, un peace-keeping troops and conflict-affected communities, it seeks to highlight how fundamental principles and thinking associated with livelihoods can alter when situated in insecure, contested and violent contexts of the Global South. Consequently it argues there is value, in such empirical contexts, of bringing the livelihoods approach into conversation with discourses on the political economy of conflict, post-colonialism, and critical geopolitics. There is a need to understand livelihoods as resilient and resistant. The findings that emerged when this approach was adopted within the research are discussed. They highlight the links between contamination, bio-politics and bare life; the links between contamination, geographies of fear and the control of space; coping with, and adapting to, contamination as a means to reclaim both identity, home and homeland and to challenge the reproduction of dominant political relations; and perceiving clearance not only as an amelioration of risk and unblocking of assets, but emancipating with a regaining of freedom(s). In this research, the non-material, emotional impacts of contamination and clearance on livelihood were significant. Moreover, through broadening and reorienting livelihoods analysis, they could be effectively examined and grounded. This unsettles the assumptions upon which the conceptualisations of impact, and hence how it is primarily examined, have traditionally fallen within humanitarian mine action.