I’m delighted to recommend a new book by Dr Adele del Sordi and colleagues at the University of Amsterdam called Research, Ethics and Risk in the Authoritarian Field.
This is a much needed book – indeed, the first of its kind – to support researchers exploring a range of issues in the field in authoritarian settings.
Dr Del Sordi has experience doing research in Kazakhstan, which adds a welcome Central Asian flavour to much of the book’s content.
The book achieves two equally useful tasks, being divided into sections that enable the authors to reflect on their individual experiences as well as offering advice and guidance to other researchers. Bear in mind that it’s mainly written from the perspective of ‘western’ researchers, although I think the authors do a good job of making clear the limits and scope involved in an endeavour such as this one. I liked this nugget, for example:
…as western researchers we may too easily read authoritarianism into such requirements, and forget the often draconian procedures of our own authorities vis-à-vis non-residents (p.22)
The book is carefully referenced, offering a number of extra readings that bring together reports (such as the Central Eurasian Studies Society‘s widely read Taskforce on Field Safety, 2016) and the limited number of academic reflections on these issues.
A neat addition to the book – which, by the way, you can download for free are a series of cartoons illustrating some of the issues raised in the book. That is a really cool touch! You can find the cartoons on the authors’ institutional website.
Here’s the official blurb:
This Open Access book offers a synthetic reflection on the authors’ fieldwork experiences in seven countries within the framework of ‘Authoritarianism in a Global Age’, a major comparative research project. It responds to the demand for increased attention to methodological rigor and transparency in qualitative research, and seeks to advance and practically support field research in authoritarian contexts. Without reducing the conundrums of authoritarian field research to a simple how-to guide, the book systematically reflects and reports on the authors’ combined experiences in (i) getting access to the field, (ii) assessing risk, (iii) navigating ‘red lines’, (iv) building relations with local collaborators and respondents, (v) handling the psychological pressures on field researchers, and (vi) balancing transparency and prudence in publishing research. It offers unique insights into this particularly challenging area of field research, makes explicit how the authors handled methodological challenges and ethical dilemmas, and offers recommendations where appropriate.
So there you have it. Download and enjoy!