Ethical Challenges of Fieldwork-based Research in Conflict Zones

Conference Paper

Miklian, Jason (2013) Ethical Challenges of Fieldwork-based Research in Conflict Zones, presented at European Conference on African Studies, Lisbon, Portugal.

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Long the domain of anthropologists and journalists, field research within conflict zones has become an important criterion for young scholars in a broad array of social science fields that formerly did not prioritize fieldwork, including for mixed-methods approaches in political science and international relations. However, after scholars select where to research, the existing literature on how to research often provides little guidance on the fundamental tenants and basic practicalities of how to anticipate and address ethical issues as they arise. Researching in conflict zones complicates matters further, as life-or-death situations for subjects and researcher can be more than mere rhetoric. Effective and ethical fieldwork design should consider not only methodology, but also the fact that a researcher’s presence and actions have consequences that can reverberate during and after fields visits in both positive and negative ways for the researcher and the researched. In this paper, I focus upon the ethics of intent (before you go), the ethics of action (while you’re there) and the ethics of outcome (after you’ve gone) as three distinct stages of fieldwork design that are necessary for researchers to consider and understand when undertaking social science fieldwork within conflict zones.