Fieldwork Methods in Sensitive or Dangerous Locations

Conference paper

Miklian, Jason (2013) Fieldwork Methods in Sensitive or Dangerous Locations, presented at International Studies Association.

This roundtable proposes to engage two vital areas in fieldwork conducted in challenging locations: 1. Ontological assumptions made due to the methods and methodologies used and their impact on the research and researcher 2. Challenges in acquiring data due to linguistic issues including interpretation of dialects, idioms, and perceptions of subjects. Fieldwork is a vital component of political research. Numerous methods and methodologies exist, involving differing and sometimes conflicting epistemologies and ontologies, and can include surveys, structured/unstructured interviews, ethnography (participant/observation), and auto-ethnography. When coupled with a war zone or other politically or socially sensitive location, the researcher's position in the research and the ontological assumptions he/she makes through methodology often becomes magnified. The purpose of the proposed panel is to explore the epistemological and methodological challenges that researchers face when they do fieldwork in sensitive and/or dangerous locations, as well as the ontological assumptions underlying these methodological choices. Additionally, part of the discussion will focus on communications problems inherent in different methods, most notably linguistic difficulties, not just across language barriers, but also within and amongst speakers of a given language in terms of local idioms and dialects.

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