Ethics of Research in Conflict and in MIgation Studies

| January 10, 2016


Read the Eckl article, and, taking that article and the Workshop into account, reflect on the following questions in view of either your tentative dissertation research topic or a hypothetical topic (if your tentative dissertation topic is not relevant):

-Give a brief overview of your intended topic (Electoral violence in Nigeria)

-What intended or unintended consequences, positive or negative, might your research have for the field/the people you are studying? Of what potential consequences must you be aware?

-Discuss how you will balance balance active engagement/empathy with your interviewees and avoiding being “co-opted by the field”.

-Reflect on the impact, if any, that your own personal position or experiences might have on the research you intend to do.

Summarize your findings in a ca. 500 word paper.

Julian Eckl (2008). “Responsible scholarship after leaving the veranda: Normative issues faced by field researchers – and armchair scientists” International Political Sociology 2: 185-203.

Responsible Scholarship After Leaving the
Veranda: Normative Issues Faced by Field
Researchers—and Armchair Scientists1
Julian Eckl
University of St. Gallen
The article deals with the normative lessons that political scientists can
learn from ethnology’s experiences with ethnography. Ethnographic
methods like participant observation differ significantly from other
methods since they explicitly blur the boundary between theory and
practice; this blurring requires researchers to carefully evaluate their
conflicting responsibilities to the people studied, to the scientific community,
and to themselves. Many of the insights generated in ethnology
are relevant for political scientists, too, especially for those political
scientists who are prepared to ‘‘leave the veranda’’ and want to put
ethnographic methods to use, but also for those who prefer to remain
in the position of an ‘‘armchair’’ researcher.
The study of international affairs is predominantly conducted through the lens of
political science. The merits of this perspective not withstanding, efforts have continuously
been made toward the inclusion of additional perspectives. The recent
interest in ethnography expressed in this journal represents an example of such
efforts at the methodological level and promises to complement the predominant
forms of ‘‘armchair’’ research with first-hand field research (Neumann 2007; Brigg
and Bleiker 2008; Jackson 2008). Following up on these propositions to consider
ethnographic methods for the study of international affairs, this article draws
attention to the normative lessons that can be learned from ethnology’s experiences
with ethnography in general and participant observation in particular.2
The possible contribution of ethnography to the study of international affairs is
often discussed in purely methodological terms.3 This overlooks important aspects
of methods like participant observation: whereas all methods are tacitly normative
in the sense that they prescribe rules that have to be followed (Herrmann
1An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association
in Chicago, Illinois, March 1, 2007. I would like to thank Justine Eckl, Ulla Jasper, Thomas Teichler, Sabrina Schai,
Ralph Weber, Bernd Bucher, James Davis, and the anonymous reviewers of this journal for their comments and
2Sticking to a Central European tradition, the term ethnology is used throughout this article when reference is
made to the discipline as a whole (in English speaking countries, on the other hand, it is commonly called cultural
anthropology (US) and social anthropology (UK), respectively, since it is conceptualized as a specific aspect of
anthropology); the term ethnography is employed when the activity of data collection is emphasized; the discipline’s
subfields and approaches are labeled by composites in which the terms ethnology and anthropology are treated as
synonymous (for example, structural anthropology or action anthropology).
3Encouraging examples of researchers who have already used ethnographic methods in the field of international
affairs include Carol Cohn’s (1987) research on (U.S.) defense intellectuals, Michael Barnett’s (1997)
research on (UN) bureaucrats, Hugh Gusterson’s (2001, 2008) research on (U.S.) nuclear weapons scientists, and
Iver Neumann’s (2005, 2007) research on (Norwegian) diplomats.
 2008 International Studies Association
International Political Sociology (2008) 2, 185–203

Category: Essay

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