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Beyond the Field: Ethics after Fieldwork in Politically Dynamic Contexts

  • Eleanor Knott

Abstract

As researchers, when do our ethical obligations end? How should our ethical obligations respond to dynamic and unstable political contexts? Political scientists frequently work in dynamic political situations that can pose new ethical questions beyond those existing at the point of fieldwork. Yet, research ethics are often conceived in terms of a static, if not hermetically sealed, field site that remains frozen in time at the point we conduct fieldwork and collect data. I argue, first, that we need to consider more systematically how a dynamic field intersects with ethical obligations. Second, I argue that new and unexpected ethical questions can emerge after exiting the field, including responsibilities to research participants, dissemination, and publication, and returning to the field, which should be a part of how we conceive of ethical obligations.

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She is grateful to four anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback and to the editors of Perspectives on Politics for their guidance throughout the process. Additionally, she is grateful to Denisa Kostovicova, Dvora Yanow, Randi Soljell, and Jesse Driscoll for providing thoughtful comments, as well as to the participants at APSA 2016 and the LSE Methodology Departmental seminar. Finally, she is grateful to the scholarship of Lee Ann Fujii without which this article would have been much harder to write.

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