Ethics in conflict: doing research in conflict areas and the ethical dilemmas that arise

Erella Grassiani (University of Amsterdam)
Nerina Weiss (Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies)
Start time:
25 August, 2010 at 11:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

When working in conflict areas, anthropologists have to deal with often contradictory ethical dilemmas. In this workshop we wish to tackle the different structural levels of ethical obligations and methodological dilemmas encountered in the field.

Long abstract:

For several years, anthropologists have been concerned with ethics in research and writing. The active involvement of anthropologists with military operations in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has further stirred discussion and has even led to the change of the code of ethics of the AAA (2006). This code, and others like it, are however, rather rigid and do not take into account the different (often contradicting) levels of ethical obligations and dilemmas researchers working in conflict areas continuously encounter (Bourgois 1990). Our ethical obligations towards our interlocutors, the states in which we work and expectations by our research institutions and sponsors are often incompatible. As researchers we continuously have to juggle between different positions and especially when studying conflict we are persistently confronted with expectations of taking sides - not only by academia and our readers, but first and foremost by the people we work with. Anthropology has historically been a discipline of the underprivileged and the study of perpetrators of violence is still, unjustly, being looked upon with suspicion. How do anthropologists, who either work with victims or perpetrators, deal with the expectations of our interlocutors and colleagues? Do we necessarily have to take side with our informants, do we (have to) criticize them, how far do we engage in their struggle for justice and how do we represent our findings, and ourselves to different audiences? We welcome contributions that tackle such ethical issues. Contributions may analyse these ethical dilemmas structurally or methodologically, and address questions of (re)presentation.