'I am not a spy!'

Research, ethics and risk in the authoritarian field

9 January 2018

Through an Open Access book and comic strip series UvA political scientists share their fieldwork experiences in authoritarian contexts. They offer their insights into this particularly challenging area of field research, making explicit how they handled methodological challenges and ethical dilemmas, and offering recommendations.

Marlies Glasius, Meta de Lange, Jos Bartman, Emanuela Dalmasso, Aofei Lv, Adele Del Sordi, Marcus Michaelsen and Kris Ruijgrok conducted their research within the framework of the ‘Authoritarianism in a Global Age’ project, funded by the European Research Council.

The project addressed questions as: when Kazakh students go study in the West, do they come back more democratic? Why are Iranian dissidents abroad still scared of their own government? When the NSA in the United States exposes millions of people to surveillance, and keeps these practices secret from its own Congress, is that a form of authoritarianism?

Book on research ethics

The authors systematically reflect and report on their combined experiences in getting access to the field, assessing risk, navigating ‘red lines’, building relations with local collaborators and respondents, handling the psychological pressures on field researchers, and balancing transparency and prudence in publishing research.

With the publication they respond to the demand for increased attention to methodological rigor and transparency in qualitative research. They seek to advance and practically support field research.

Cartoon 'Research, Ethics and Risk in the Authoritarian Field'

Comic series and the fictional heroine Alice

With the book comes a comic strip series, in which their fictional heroine Alice encounters some of the challenges they discuss in the book. The first outing is included as picture and can be downloaded.

Published by  AISSR