Navigating Unpredictable Sites

Methodological Implications of Positioning during and after Fieldwork in Conflict Societies

in Social Analysis
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  • 1 Ruhr-Universität Bochum eva.gerharz@rub.de
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Abstract

This article discusses the relationship between the researcher and a field affected by armed conflict. Based on ethnographic research in Sri Lanka during the ceasefire of 2002, it investigates how deep polarization that emerges in the course of a violent conflict determines the researcher’s scope for positioning vis-à-vis the different groups. The article argues that the unpredictibility of the research site necessitates careful navigation of the self and requires thorough reflection on the consequences of particular moves at the point of decision making. In order to maintain relationships with different sides, there is a need to deal carefully with sensitive issues, both during and after fieldwork. This article pleas for a balance between pragmatism and ethics.

Contributor Notes

Eva Gerharz is a Junior Professor in the Sociology Department at Ruhr-Univer sity Bochum and Interim Professor of Development Sociology at Bayreuth University in 2017–2018. She was previously a Researcher in the Department of Social Anthropology at Bielefeld University and Associate Scientist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu. With a major focus on South Asia, her research deals with indigeneity, ethnicity and conflict, development and reconstruction, political activism, and transnationalism. She has co-edited Governance, Conflict and Development in South Asia (2015, with Siri Hettige) and Land, Development and Security in South Asia (2016, with Katy Gardner).

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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