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Journal ArticleDOI

Finding Your Feet in the Field: Critical Reflections of Early Career Researchers on Field Research in Transitional Societies

01 Jul 2014-Journal of Human Rights Practice (Oxford University Press)-Vol. 6, Iss: 2, pp 223-237

AbstractFieldwork that takes place in conflict or transitional regions is becoming increasingly popular amongst early-career and more seasoned researchers, but is an area that retains an air of mystery and remains an exotic form of knowledge gathering. There exists a paucity of personal reflection on the challenges associated with conducting fieldwork in conflicted or transitional regions and a limited amount of insight into the practical steps taken in advance of and when immersed in the field. Such reticence to share honest fieldwork experiences, particularly the more challenging research that takes place in conflict or transitional settings, plays a part in creating a culture of silence. This paper attempts to counteract this silence by drawing on the challenges experienced by two early career researchers conducting fieldwork in Uganda and Palestine, focusing on the practical steps taken in advance of entering the field, and the challenges faced whilst engaged in fieldwork. Specific challenges are highlighted throughout, including physical access to areas in conflict, engaging with reluctant research participants, the emotional impact of fieldwork on the researcher, maintaining confidentiality, researching with vulnerable victims, and ensuring appropriate knowledge exchange between researchers and participants. The paper concludes by emphasising the requirement for greater reflection on the inherently personal challenges associated with conducting fieldwork in conflicted or transitional settings and highlights the view that fieldwork is a privileged position that carries great responsibilities which must be upheld to ensure the sustainability of future research. This paper hopes to contribute to the wider debate on conducting fieldwork and the challenges associated with working in conflicted or transitional regions.

Topics: Field research (54%)

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Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: Entering ‘the field’ can be a daunting, demanding and at times bewildering experience, with researchers negotiating a myriad of assumptions, expectations and motivations. Whilst early career researchers and doctoral students may be trained in theories of research practice, research design and ethical conduct, the realities of actually doing research often test the limits of such formal training and knowledge. In this practice note, I draw upon my experience of fieldwork in the UK working with dispersed asylum seekers and refugees in order to discuss the challenges faced in encountering ‘the field’. The note discusses how ethnographic research with asylum seekers and refugees produced a series of entanglements of emotional connection and expectation, as research in practice demanded the dissolution of fixed categories of the researcher, the volunteer, the advocate and the friend. In tracing a path through the messy realities of working with asylum seekers in this way, I argue that encountering ‘the field’ cannot be parcelled off into distinct chunks of time, but demands a constant attentiveness to context and constant work to develop skills of listening, observing, questioning and perseverance. The note concludes by asserting the need to take seriously the ways in which fieldwork produces more than simply ‘data’. Rather, fieldwork produces sensibilities and dispositions, it alters researchers and those they encounter in often unpredictable ways.

34 citations


Dissertation
01 Jan 2018

19 citations


Cites background from "Finding Your Feet in the Field: Cri..."

  • ...Structuring the section in this manner also makes it possible to chart a roughly chronological path that relates to the project’s prefieldwork, during-fieldwork and post-fieldwork phases, all of which need to be given due attention (Browne and Moffett 2014: 233-235)....

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  • ...The security of data is an important issue, especially if these are sensitive (Browne and Moffett 2014: 227 and 230)....

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  • ...Something noted during fieldwork, however, was the 106 sense of frustration that individuals and communities sometimes experience in engaging with researchers (Browne and Moffett 2014: 229)....

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  • ...…manuals often contain lists of legal and ethical issues to take into consideration (Bryman 2008: 118; Sarantakos 2005: 17-24), while it is generally held that undertaking research in violent contexts serves to heighten certain types of research risk (Browne and Moffett 2014; Ganiel 2013)....

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  • ...Browne and Moffett (2014) refer to the importance of cultivating links with local communitybased organizations or academic institutions to make research both easier and safer....

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Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: This article outlines the case for peace and conflict researchers to formulate a research covenant to better shape their ethical obligations and responsibilities. This is an urgent necessity given ...

16 citations


Cites background from "Finding Your Feet in the Field: Cri..."

  • ...…is an ethical dilemma for all researchers studying emotionally sensitive material not just peace and conflict researchers, but in the latter field, secondary or vicarious traumatisation of the people only nominally involved in the research is a real risk (see Browne and Moffett, 2014: 227)....

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  • ...…383–384), and had to be willing to accept the constraints that come with this, as well as becoming reconciled to an unusually high reliance on gatekeepers (Browne and Moffett, 2014: 228), which brought with it the attendant problem of finding the right gatekeepers (Browne and Moffett, 2014: 228)....

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  • ...In this last respect, they emphasised the importance of reciprocity as an ethical obligation on researchers, which they refer to as knowledge exchange back to respondents (Browne and Moffett, 2014: 229)....

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DissertationDOI
01 Jan 2018
Abstract: Intrastate wars dominate the nature of armed conflict all over the world. The macrodynamics of civil war – its causes, contexts and incentive structures – have been elaborated by a number of mainly quantitative studies. What is largely missing from the picture is an analysis of the internal dynamics of irregular warfare. We know a lot about how and why violence starts and possibly ends, but not how it happens. This thesis aims at addressing this gap by focusing on the microdynamics of organised collective violence. It departs from the case of the initially northern Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a now transnational rebel group that is characterised by its reliance on forced recruitment and the use of excessive violence. What makes the continuous presence of the LRA possible? How can an organisation that has no popular support or financial means, one that relies on forced recruitment, sustain itself for such a long time? How does it manage to create compliance and even commitment among its mainly involuntary personnel? And how do the combatants themselves cope with these demands of violent action? What resources do they have to survive, get used to, and – for some – even come to enjoy an everyday life that is structured by violence and the threat of it? How does their violent lifestyle impact the way combatants think about themselves, and vice versa? In short: How do combatants cope with the violent demands of the LRA, and how does the LRA manage to enforce its violent demands? These are the questions motivating this thesis.

12 citations


References
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Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: Within the context of their new constructivist self-development theory, the authors discuss therapists' reactions to clients' traumatic material. The phenomenon they term “vicarious traumatization” can be understood as related both to the graphic and painful material trauma clients often present and to the therapist's unique cognitive schemas or beliefs, expectations, and assumptions about self and others. The authors suggest ways that therapists can transform and integrate clients' traumatic material in order to provide the best services to clients, as well as to protect themselves against serious harmful effects.

1,744 citations


01 Jan 2008
Abstract: The focus of this article is an examination of translation dilemmas in qualitative research. Specifically it explores three questions: whether methodologically it matters if the act of translation ...

903 citations


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Abstract: The focus of this article is an examination of translation dilemmas in qualitative research. Specifically it explores three questions: whether methodologically it matters if the act of translation ...

873 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: While there is no single 'best practice' for refugee research, refugee studies would advance its academic and policy relevance by more seriously considering methodological and ethical concerns, this paper identifies some key methodological andethical problems confronting social scientists studying forced migrants or their hosts.
Abstract: Social scientists doing fieldwork in humanitarian situations often face a dual imperative: research should be both academically sound and policy relevant. We argue that much of the current research on forced migration is based on unsound methodology, and that the data and subsequent policy conclusions are often flawed or ethically suspect. This paper identifies some key methodological and ethical problems confronting social scientists studying forced migrants or their hosts. These problems include non-representativeness and bias, issues arising from working in unfamiliar contexts including translation and the use of local researchers, and ethical dilemmas including security and confidentiality issues and whether researchers are doing enough to 'do no harm'. The second part of the paper reviews the authors' own efforts to conduct research on urban refugees in Johannesburg. It concludes that while there is no single 'best practice' for refugee research, refugee studies would advance its academic and policy relevance by more seriously considering methodological and ethical concerns.

481 citations


"Finding Your Feet in the Field: Cri..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Some translators can shape answers to confirm to their own views, or translate information in a manner they believe the researcher may want to hear (Jacobsen and Landau, 2003: 9)....

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Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: Fieldwork Under Fire is a path-breaking collection of essays written by anthropologists who have experienced the unpredictability and trauma of political violence firsthand. These essays combine theoretical, ethnographic, and methodological points of view to illuminate the processes and solutions that characterize life in dangerous places. They describe the first, often harrowing, experience of violence, the personal and professional problems that arise as troubles escalate, and the often surprising creative strategies people use to survive. In "writing violence," the authors give voice to all those affected by the conditions of violence: perpetrators as well as victims, civilians and specialists, black marketeers and heroes, jackals and researchers. Focusing on everyday experiences, these essays bring to light the puzzling contradictions of lives disturbed by violence: the simultaneous existence of laughter and suffering, of fear and hope. By doing so, they challenge the narrow conceptualization that associates violence with death and war, arguing that instead it must be considered a dimension of living.

358 citations