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ResourcesHuman Research EthicsThe ‘problem’ of undesigned relationality: Ethnographic fieldwork, dual roles and research ethics (Papers: Kirsten Bell | 2018)

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

The ‘problem’ of undesigned relationality: Ethnographic fieldwork, dual roles and research ethics (Papers: Kirsten Bell | 2018)

 


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Abstract

This October 2018 paper reflects on an area of research which continues to be a source of tension between at least some researchers* and research ethics reviewers: Is it a problem, or an advantage or in fact sometimes a necessity that there be an existing connection between participant and researcher. *Especially for ethnographers and anthropologists who might feel they are being held to a biomedical standard that is irrelevant and useless for their work. We have included links to a trove of related items in the Resource Library.

Perhaps the most unique feature of ethnographic fieldwork is the distinctive form of relationality it entails, where the ethnographer’s identity as a researcher is not fixed in the way typical of most other forms of research. In this paper, I explore how this ‘undesigned relationality’ is understood, both in procedural ethics frameworks and by the different disciplines that have come to claim a stake in the ‘method’ itself. Demonstrating that the ethical issues it entails are primarily conceptualized via the lens of the ‘dual role’, I use this as a means of exploring the ideal relationship between researcher and subject that procedural ethics frameworks are premised upon. I go on to explore the epistemological differences in ways that ethnographers themselves understand and respond to the multiple forms of relationality that characterize fieldwork and the challenge this poses to the possibility of a pan-disciplinary consensus on ethnographic research ethics.
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Keywords
ethnography, research ethics, dual roles, disciplinarity, relationality
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Bell, K. (2018). The ‘problem’ of undesigned relationality: Ethnographic fieldwork, dual roles and research ethics. Ethnography. https://doi.org/10.1177/1466138118807236



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