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Über dieses Buch

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.

This book is open access under a CC BY 4.0 license.

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Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Open Access

Chapter 1. Introduction

In this introduction to Research, Ethics and Risk in the Authoritarian Field, we explain why and how we wrote this book, who we are, what the ‘authoritarian field’ means for us, and who may find this book useful. By recording our joint experiences in very different authoritarian contexts systematically and succinctly, comparing and contrasting them, and drawing lessons, we aim to give other researchers a framework, so they will not need to start from scratch as we did. It is not the absence of free and fair elections, or repression, that most prominently affects our fieldwork in authoritarian contexts, but the arbitrariness of authoritarian rule, and the uncertainty it results in for us and the people in our fieldwork environment.
Marlies Glasius, Meta de Lange, Jos Bartman, Emanuela Dalmasso, Aofei Lv, Adele Del Sordi, Marcus Michaelsen, Kris Ruijgrok

Open Access

Chapter 2. Entering the Field

In this chapter, we deal with authoritarian field research in relation to ethics procedures (or lack thereof!), visas, and permits, and what we do in advance to prepare for an optimal, and optimally safe, fieldwork period. We acknowledge that fieldwork in authoritarian contexts is mostly not very dangerous for researchers, but it can be. We discuss the particular nature of authoritarian fieldwork risks, the concrete risks we ourselves and others have faced, and what we can do to assess and mitigate those risks. We conclude that while we should be aware of risk and try to minimize it, we need to accept that risk cannot be eliminated if we want to engage in authoritarian fieldwork.
Marlies Glasius, Meta de Lange, Jos Bartman, Emanuela Dalmasso, Aofei Lv, Adele Del Sordi, Marcus Michaelsen, Kris Ruijgrok

Open Access

Chapter 3. Learning the Red Lines

In this chapter we, as scholars of authoritarianism, discuss the ‘red lines’, a term used in authoritarian contexts to denote topics that are highly politically sensitive. We first describe commonalities in what the red lines are in different contexts, distinguishing between hard red lines and more fluid ones. We describe how we navigate red lines in fieldwork by offering a depoliticized, but not untrue, version of our research; how we adapt our wording and behavior to remain within the red lines, but still give us meaningful research results; and how we respond when the red lines shift, and words and behaviors previously acceptable become taboo, or vice versa.
Marlies Glasius, Meta de Lange, Jos Bartman, Emanuela Dalmasso, Aofei Lv, Adele Del Sordi, Marcus Michaelsen, Kris Ruijgrok

Open Access

Chapter 4. Building and Maintaining Relations in the Field

In this chapter, we discuss the centrality of personal connections and trust in the authoritarian field. We consider our relations with local collaborators, the responsibility we have towards them, and the consideration of risk in such relations. We also discuss relations with interview respondents, the ways in which we approach them to try and maximize our chances of building trust, and how we ‘work with what we have’ in terms of our ascriptive characteristics, presenting a version of ourselves that helps us get information. We reflect on having been subject to manipulation by local contacts and respondents. Finally, we consider the debt we owe collaborators and respondents in the field, and the limited ways in which we can do something in return.
Marlies Glasius, Meta de Lange, Jos Bartman, Emanuela Dalmasso, Aofei Lv, Adele Del Sordi, Marcus Michaelsen, Kris Ruijgrok

Open Access

Chapter 5. Mental Impact

In this chapter, we describe our encounters with targeted surveillance and intimidation, betrayal, and being confronted with hard stories of suffering, torture, and brutal murder. We consider the feelings of stress, fear, and paranoia that may result from operating in a repressive environment and what we need to do, individually and institutionally, to mitigate and manage the harmful mental impact of fieldwork. We then turn to how pressure to get results, and a sense of shame and career worries associated with not getting them, can compound negative impact of fieldwork. Finally though, we also record the positive effects of fieldwork on our psyche and worldview. We conclude with the importance of making it possible to talk about mental impact, before, during, and after fieldwork.
Marlies Glasius, Meta de Lange, Jos Bartman, Emanuela Dalmasso, Aofei Lv, Adele Del Sordi, Marcus Michaelsen, Kris Ruijgrok

Open Access

Chapter 6. Writing It Up

In this chapter, we reflect on standards relating to writing up and publishing research based on authoritarian fieldwork. After briefly relating the history of recent transparency initiatives, we first report extensively on our own current practices in relation to anonymization, protection, and transparency. Then, we make some recommendations regarding how the tension between the value of anonymity and the value of transparency might be better navigated, if not resolved. We make two proposals: the first concerns a shift from transparency about the identity of our sources to transparency about our methods of working. The second is to promote a culture of controlled sharing of anonymized sources. Finally, we reflect on trade-offs between publicly criticizing authoritarian regimes and future access to the authoritarian field.
Marlies Glasius, Meta de Lange, Jos Bartman, Emanuela Dalmasso, Aofei Lv, Adele Del Sordi, Marcus Michaelsen, Kris Ruijgrok

Backmatter

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