DSA-ESRC Workshop series
MEETING THE CHALLENGES
Interdisciplinary research for global development
Ethical research in contexts of post-conflict and displacement
Research in contexts of post-conflict and displacement heightens ethical challenges. These were the focus of the second of the DSA-ESRC workshops on the global challenges, co-convened by Rosa Freedman of the Global Development Division, University of Reading and Sarah White, Centre for Development Studies, Bath.
The great value of the day was the opportunity to discuss across south/north and academic/policy and practice divides. In addition to interdisciplinary research, there was thus a strong transdisciplinary dimension, of research collaborations between academics and practitioners. Of the twenty six participants, six were from the global South. Independent consultants and staff from the United Nations, national and international NGOs shared experience with academics from anthropology, political science, law, sociology, geography, archaeology and architecture.
Discussion centred on key ethical issues participants identified in contexts of post-conflict and displacement. These included: navigating highly politicised contexts; who to work – and not work – with; payment, impact and the purpose of research; the personal and political vulnerabilities of participants; formal and local ethics; complaint mechanisms and accountability; and the politics of north/south and transdisciplinary partnership.
A surprising finding was that differing understandings of key terms such as research, post-conflict, the purpose of research, and what makes an issue ethical, cut across differences in work experience, national and disciplinary backgrounds. However, there were also clear areas of difference between academic and practitioner, and between those located in the north and south. The intention of the report is to highlight both areas of agreement and the points at which perspectives differed.
Dr Rozhen Mohammed-Amin of Sulaimani Polytechnic University reflects on research ethics in Iraq, and Dr Yassin Brunger of Queens University Belfast questions what research is – and should be – for.
A lawyer from Queen’s University, Belfast, describes how interdisciplinary teams help victims’ voices be heard in re-building society after conflict in Gambia.
Rozhen Mohammed-Amin, an architect from the Kurdistan region in Iraq, describes how colleagues from Education helped her see new ethical dimensions of research interviewing.
Zaynab Ashalalfeh, a Palestinian from Jerusalem, describes the shock of studying in the UK, which made her aware of how normalised were high levels of risk and violence in her own context.