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

Brendan Browne, Luke Moffett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)
277 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Fieldwork 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 aids 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-237
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Human Rights Practice
Volume6
Issue number2
Early online date10 Jul 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventConducting Fieldwork in Conflict or Transitional Societies - Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 03 Feb 2014 → …

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