Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Ethics Abroad: Fieldwork in Fragile and Violent Contexts

  • Kate Cronin-Furman (a1) and Milli Lake (a2)
Abstract

The diversity of political spaces, availability of cheap labor, ease of access to powerful figures, and safety net of a foreign passport attract researchers to the developing world. However, environments of extreme state weakness and ongoing conflict permit research behavior that would be frowned on in the global north. We suggest that weak regulatory authority in conflict-affected states offers foreign academics opportunities that are not available when states have greater reach or capacity. Qualitative researchers may find requests to interview victims or perpetrators of wartime violence granted with ease. Experimenters can coerce under-resourced NGOs to pursue interventions at odds with their organizational mandates. We posit that conflict contexts can constitute permissive environments in which researchers can engage in conduct that would be considered deeply problematic at home. Because studying political violence can require firsthand research on aspects of political life not easily observed elsewhere, this article offers a set of guidelines to foster more ethical and responsible research practices.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Ethics Abroad: Fieldwork in Fragile and Violent Contexts
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Ethics Abroad: Fieldwork in Fragile and Violent Contexts
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Ethics Abroad: Fieldwork in Fragile and Violent Contexts
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
References
Hide All
Arjona, Ana. 2014. “Wartime Institutions: A Research Agenda.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 58 (8): 1360–89. Available at https://doi.org/10.1177/0022002714547904.
Berry, Marie E. 2018. War, Women, and Power in Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Blattman, Christopher, and Annan, Jeannie. 2015. “Can Employment Reduce Lawlessness and Rebellion? A Field Experiment with High-Risk Men in a Fragile State.” National Bureau of Economic Research: Working Paper 21289. Available at www.nber.org/papers/w21289.
Bouka, Yolande. 2015. “Researcher Positionality.” Conflict Field Research (blog). Available at http://conflictfieldresearch.colgate.edu/working-papers/researcher-positionality.
Brown. 2009. “Dilemma of Self-Representation and Conduct in the Field.” In Surviving Field Research: Working in Violent and Difficult Situations, ed. Lekha Sriram, Chandra, King, John C., Mertus, Julie A., Martin-Ortega, Olga, and Herman, Johanna. New York: Routledge.
Campbell, Susanna P. 2017. “Ethics of Research in Conflict Environments.” Journal of Global Security Studies 2 (1): 89101.
Chakravarty, Anuradha. 2012. “‘Partially Trusting’ Field Relationships: Opportunities and Constraints of Fieldwork in Rwanda’s Postconflict Setting.” Field Methods 24 (3): 251–71.
Clark, Janine Natalya. 2012. “Fieldwork and Its Ethical Challenges: Reflections from Research in Bosnia.” Human Rights Quarterly 34 (3): 823–39.
Cohen, Dara Kay. 2013. “Female Combatants and the Perpetration of Violence: Wartime Rape in the Sierra Leone Civil War.” World Politics 65 (3): 383415.
Davenport, Christian. 2013. “Researching While Black: Why Conflict Research Needs More African Americans (Maybe).” Political Violence @ a Glance (blog). April 10. Available at https://politicalviolenceataglance.org/2013/04/10/researching-while-black-why-conflict-research-needs-more-african-americans-maybe.
De Figueiredo, Miguel F. P., Daniel Hidalgo, F., and Kasahara, Yuri. 2011. “When Do Voters Punish Corrupt Politicians? Experimental Evidence from Brazil.” Unpublished manuscript. Berkeley: University of California. Available at http://conferences.wcfia.harvard.edu/sites/projects.iq.harvard.edu/files/gov2126/files/mdefigueiro_hidalgo_voters.pdf.
D’Errico, Nicole C., Kalala, Tshibangu, Ciza Nakamina, Joseph, Kalisya, Luc Malemo, Bukundika, Paulin, Maisha, Felicien, and Nzigire, Bashige. 2013. “‘You Say Rape, I Say Hospitals. But Whose Voice Is Louder?’ Health, Aid and Decision Making in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” African Journal of Political Economy 40 (135): 51.
Desposato, Scott. 2014a. “Ethical Challenges and Some Solutions for Field Experiments.” San Diego: University of California. Available at www.desposato.org/ethicsfieldexperiments.pdf.
Desposato, Scott. 2014b. “Ethics and Research in Comparative Politics.” The Monkey Cage: The Washington Post (blog). November 3. Available at www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/11/03/ethics-and-research-in-comparative-politics.
Desposato, Scott (ed.). 2015. Ethics and Experiments: Problems and Solutions for Social Scientists and Policy Professionals. New York: Routledge.
Driscoll, Jesse, and Schuster, Caroline. 2017. “Spies Like Us.” Ethnography (June).
Eriksson Baaz, Maria, and Verweijen, Judith. 2014. “Arbiters with Guns: The Ambiguity of Military Involvement in Civilian Disputes in the DR Congo.” Third World Quarterly 35 (5): 803–20.
Fried, Brian J., Lagunes, Paul, and Venkataramani, Atheendar. 2010. “Corruption and Inequality at the Crossroad: A Multimethod Study of Bribery and Discrimination in Latin America.” Latin American Research Review 45 (1): 7697.
Fujii, Lee Ann. 2010. “Shades of Truth and Lies: Interpreting Testimonies of War and Violence.” Journal of Peace Research 47 (2): 231–41.
Fujii, Lee Ann. 2012. “Research Ethics 101: Dilemmas and Responsibilities.” PS: Political Science & Politics 45 (4): 717–23.
Goldstein, Daniel. 2016. “Qualitative Research in Dangerous Places: Becoming an ‘Ethnographer’ of Violence and Personal Safety.” Brooklyn, NY: Social Science Research Council. Accessed April 27, 2016. Available at www.ssrc.org/pages/qualitative-research-in-dangerous-places-becoming-an-ethnographer-of-violence-and-personal-safety.
Gowrinathan, Nimmi, and Cronin-Furman, Kate. 2015. The Forever Victims? Tamil Women in Post-War Sri Lanka. Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative.
Henderson, Frances B. 2009. “‘We Thought You Would Be White’: Race and Gender in Fieldwork.” PS: Political Science & Politics 42 (2): 291–4.
Hoover Green, Amelia. 2016. “The Commander’s Dilemma Creating and Controlling Armed Group Violence.” Journal of Peace Research 53 (5): 619–32.
Humphreys, Macartan. 2014. “How to Make Field Experiments More Ethical.” The Monkey Cage: The Washington Post (blog). November 2. Available at www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/11/02/how-to-make-field-experiments-more-ethical.
Kapiszewski, Diana, MacLean, Lauren M., and Read, Benjamin L.. 2015. Field Research in Political Science: Practices and Principles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Koopman, Sara. 2017. “How to Keep You and Your Sources Safe in the Age of Surveillance.” Huffington Post, May 9. The Conversation Edition. Available at www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/weaponised-research-how-to-keep-you-and-your-sources_us_5912160ee4b07e366cebb696.
Lake, Milli. 2018. Strong NGOs and Weak States: Gender Justice and Human Rights Advocacy in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lake, Milli, Muthaka, Ilot, and Walker, Gabriella. 2016. “Gendering Justice in Humanitarian Spaces: Opportunity and (Dis)empowerment Through Gender-Based Legal Development Outreach in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.” Law & Society Review 50 (3): 539–74. Available at
Lund, Christian. 2007. Twilight Institutions: Public Authority and Local Politics in Africa. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Mampilly, Zachariah Cherian. 2011. Rebel Rulers: Insurgent Governance and Civilian Life during War. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Menkhaus, Kenneth John. 2007. “Governance without Government in Somalia: Spoilers, State Building, and the Politics of Coping.” International Security 31 (3): 74106.
Mitchell, Audra. 2013. “Escaping the ‘Field Trap’: Exploitation and the Global Politics of Educational Fieldwork in ‘Conflict Zones.’” Third World Quarterly 34 (7): 1247–64. Available at https://doi.org/10.1080/01436597.2013.824642.
Nilan, Pamela. 2002. “‘Dangerous Fieldwork’ Re-Examined: The Question of Researcher–Subject Position.” Qualitative Research 2 (3): 363–86. Available at https://doi.org/10.1177/146879410200200305.
Parkinson, Sarah E. 2016. “Money Talks: Discourse, Networks and Structure in Militant Organizations.” Perspectives on Politics 14 (4): 976–94.
Parkinson, Sarah Elizabeth. 2015. “Reflections on Researching Violence in the War on Terror.” Paper Presented at the American Political Science Association Annual Conference. San Francisco.
Pittaway, Eileen, Bartolomei, Linda, and Hugman, Richard. 2010. “‘Stop Stealing Our Stories’: The Ethics of Research with Vulnerable Groups.” Journal of Human Rights Practice 2 (2): 229–51.
Rodríguez, Clelia. 2017. “How Academia Uses Poverty, Oppression, and Pain for Intellectual Masturbation.” RaceBaitR, April 6. Available at http://racebaitr.com/2017/04/06/how-academia-uses-poverty-oppression.
Rotberg, Robert I. 2004. When States Fail: Causes and Consequences. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Shesterinina, Anastasia. 2016. “Collective Threat Framing and Mobilization in Civil War.” American Political Science Review 110 (3): 411–27.
Smyth, Marie. 2005. “Insider–Outsider Issues in Researching Violent and Divided Societies.” In Researching Conflict in Africa: Insights and Experiences, ed. Porter, Elisabeth J., 923. New York: United Nations University Press.
Sriram, Chandra Lekha, King, John C., Mertus, Julie A., Martin-Ortega, Olga, Herman, Johanna, and Gallaher, Carolyn. 2009. “Researching Repellent Groups: Some Methodological Considerations on How to Represent Militants, Radicals, and Other Belligerents.” In Surviving Field Research: Working in Violent and Difficult Situations, 127–46. New York: Routledge.
Staniland, Paul. 2012. “States, Insurgents, and Wartime Political Orders.” Perspectives on Politics 10 (2): 243–64.
Straus, Scott. 2006. The Order of Genocide: Race, Power, and War in Rwanda. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Thomson, Susan. 2009. “That Is Not What We Authorized You to Do.” In Surviving Field Research: Working in Violent and Difficult Situations. New York: Routledge. Available at http://conflictfieldresearch.colgate.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Thomson-That-is-not-what-we-authorised-you-to-do.pdf.
Thomson, Susan M. 2013. Whispering Truth to Power: Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Postgenocide Rwanda. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Vlassenroot, Koen, and Raeymaekers, Timothy. 2004. Conflict and Social Transformation in Eastern DR Congo. Conflict Research Group. Ghent, Belgium: Academia Press Scientific Publishers.
Weinstein, Jeremy M. 2007. Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Wood, Elisabeth Jean. 2003. Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Wood, Elisabeth Jean. 2006. “The Ethical Challenges of Field Research in Conflict Zones.” Qualitative Sociology 29 (3): 373–86.
Zimmerman, Bridget. 2015. “Ethical Concerns Surrounding Research Interventions in Democratic Processes.” In Ethics and Experiments: Problems and Solutions for Social Scientists and Policy Professionals, ed. Desposato, Scott. 222–46. New York: Routledge.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

PS: Political Science & Politics
  • ISSN: 1049-0965
  • EISSN: 1537-5935
  • URL: /core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed