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No Easy Answers: The Ethics of Field Research in the Arab World

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 July 2006

Sheila Carapico
University of Richmond


Because it is a slice of one's life as well as a method for gathering data and insights, and because it entails socio-cultural immersion and interpersonal trust, field research confronts political scientists with a special set of normative issues not encountered in libraries, laboratories, or home countries. This essay weighs four plausible yet fallible positions on the ethics of fieldwork overseas, with particular reference to American political science research in the Arabic-speaking world in the 21st century. I am raising questions I cannot really answer: specifically, amidst American military engagement and a good deal of spying by governments all around, can we, or ought we, practice scholarly detachment, reciprocity, activism, or, perhaps, espionage?

© 2006 The American Political Science Association

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