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This Rant is for Social Scientists – Inside Higher Ed (Barbara Fister September 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on October 5, 2016

Cognitive dissonance made me do it. If you want social justice, why do you let your research be locked up for profit?

I’m reading Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by urban ethnographer and extraordinarily fine writer Matthew Desmond. It’s a model of narrative non-fiction and ethical story-telling about people whose lives belong to them but whose stories reveal a lot about exploitation, poverty, and the complexity of untangling the multiple strands that go into a social problem. It’s hard to get Evicted that balance right – communicate stories without manipulating either the reader or the subjects. Desmond shows how to tell such stories respectfully and with empathy, somehow magically bringing us inside the circle of lives that are not ours, inviting us to do the work of understanding rather than telling us what to think. I’m not even halfway through yet, but it’s brilliant, and I love the way he weaves something of a journalistic sensibility (for example, pointing out that when he didn’t personally witness something, he confirmed it with multiple sources) with scholarship (e.g. “this experience I’ve just described is consistent with the findings of these studies”). My daughter, who recommended it to me, says she’ll have to read it twice. She knows the footnotes are valuable, but the narrative is so compelling she doesn’t want to break away and look at them this time around.

This book review manages in just a few paragraphs of entrancing prose to artfully make a powerful point about the ethics of conducting research about the poorest in our communities and then publishing in a place and manner accessible to only a lucky few.

It’s not easy to write this well, to combine edge-of-your-seat narrative momentum with scholarly rigor. Not only is it not easy, but we’re schooled to write in an inaccessible style, as if our ideas are somehow better if written in a hard-to-decipher script that only the elite can decode because if people who haven’t been schooled that way can understand it, it’s somehow base and common, not valuable enough. If you’re able to read this message, welcome! You’re one of us. The rest of you are not among the elite, so go away.
Even worse, we think our hazing rituals around publication and validation are more important than the subjects of our research, who couldn’t afford to read it even if we chose to write in a manner that didn’t require an expensive decoder ring with a university seal on it. We say “it’s for tenure” or “that’s the best journal” and think that’s reason enough to make it impossible for people without money or connections to read it.

Read the rest of this review

Ethical Regulation and Visual Methods: Making Visual Research Impossible or Developing Good Practice? (Papers: Rose Wiles et al 2012)0

Posted by Admin in on October 4, 2016


The ethical regulation of social research in the UK has been steadily increasing over the last decade or so and comprises a form of audit to which all researchers in Higher Education are subject. Concerns have been raised by social researchers using visual methods that such ethical scrutiny and regulation will place severe limitations on visual research developments and practice. This paper draws on a qualitative study of social researchers using visual methods in the UK. The study explored their views, the challenges they face and the practices they adopt in relation to processes of ethical review. Researchers reflected on the variety of strategies they adopted for managing the ethical approval process in relation to visual research. For some this meant explicitly ‘making the case’ for undertaking visual research, notwithstanding the ethical challenges, while for others it involved ‘normalising’ visual methods in ways which delimited the possible ethical dilemmas of visual approaches. Researchers only rarely identified significant barriers to conducting visual research from ethical approval processes, though skilful negotiation and actively managing the system was often required. Nevertheless, the climate of increasing ethical regulation is identified as having a potential detrimental effect on visual research practice and development, in some instances leading to subtle but significant self-censorship in the dissemination of findings.

Keywords: Visual Research; Visual Methods; Ethics Committees; Ethical Regulation; Research Governance; Qualitative Methods

Wiles R, Coffey A, Robison J and Prosser J (2012) Ethical Regulation and Visual Methods: Making Visual Research Impossible or Developing Good Practice? Sociological Research Online. 17(1)8
Research Gate:…

The Ethics of Collaboration Whose Culture? Whose Intellectual Property? Who Benefits? (Claire Smith and Gary Jackson 2007)0

Posted by Admin in on September 18, 2016

We’d been on fishing trip to King River and were driving back to Wugularr. The old men were sitting in the front seat of our four-wheel drive, finishing their beer. Old Kotjok turned to Claire, who was sitting in the back with the kids.Holding an empty can in his hand, he asked, “Can I throw this out of the car, Bangirn?”  Claire answered “Do what you want, old man. It’s your country. ”Kotjok wound down the window and threw the can onto the roadside growling angrily, “I’m Junggayi for this country. I can do that.”

After a relaxed day fishing, Kotjok’s anger seemed out of place. When we thought about this later, we guessed that at some time a white person must have chastised him for throwing litter from a vehicle. By imposing their European values on Aboriginal actions, this person unwittingly had insulted the country’s Junggayi the senior, traditional custodian, the person who had the highest authority and responsibility to care for the land.Kotjok’s anger was in remembrance of this earlier incident.

If the person correcting Kotjok had been a woman, then she would have been compounding her mistake by interfering in “men’s business,” and the outcome  of her seemingly simple exchange with Kotjok would have been serious damage to their relationship. Cross-cultural relationships are full of hidden hazards…”

Smith CE & Jackson GT (2008). The Ethics of Collaboration. Whose Culture? Whose Intellectual Property? Who Benefits?. In Colwell-Chanthaphonh C and Ferguson TJ (Eds) Collaboration in Archaeological Practice: Engaging Descendent Communities. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, pp. 171-191.

Anthropology news: Ethical currents0

Posted by Admin in on September 9, 2016

Ethical news and commentary from the American Anthropology Association. The articles include commentary from the Committee on Ethics and reflecting on the role of ethical codes for the design and conduct of anthropological research.

Access the Ethical Currents