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Ethical Considerations and Dilemmas Before, during and after Fieldwork in Less-Democratic Contexts: some Reflections from Post-Uprising Egypt

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare Arne Wackenhut
Publicerad i The American sociologist
Volym 49
Nummer/häfte 2
Sidor 242–257
ISSN 0003-1232
Publiceringsår 2018
Publicerad vid Institutionen för globala studier
Sidor 242–257
Språk en
Länkar https://doi.org/10.1007/s12108-017-...
Ämnesord Egypt, Fieldwork, Informed consent, Interviews, Research ethics, Social movements
Ämneskategorier Globaliseringsstudier, Freds- och konfliktforskning, Freds- och utvecklingsforskning


© 2017 The Author(s) How do we conduct ethically sound social research in less- or non-democratic settings? Here, the ‘ethical guidelines,’ or ‘codes of conduct’ outlined by our professional organizations provide some, albeit only insufficient guidance. In such contexts, issues like informed consent or the avoidance of harm to research participants have to be – based on a careful analysis of the situation on the ground – operationalized. What are, considering the particular social and political context in the field, the potential risks for interviewees and the researcher, and what can be done to eliminate or at least mitigate these risks? Reflecting on extensive fieldwork on the role of the prodemocracy movement during the Egyptian Uprising of 2011 in the wake of the so-called ‘Arab Spring,’ this study illustrates how rather abstract ethical considerations can be handled practically in an environment that is characterized by increasing levels of political repression and decreasing civil liberties. It is in such contexts that a failure to carefully consider such ethical questions entails a very real risk of endangering the livelihoods and even lives of research participants. Furthermore, it is shown that these and similar issues are not only of critical importance when designing a research project, but that they might have to be revisited and renegotiated at later stages of the research process – even after the conclusion of the data collection phase. Here, questions of data protection, anonymity of informants, and the associated ‘do no harm’ principle are particularly pertinent.

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