S13 | Ethnographic Approaches to International Interventions

Section Chairs:

Berit Bliesemann de Guevara,
Aberystwyth University

Morten Bs,
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

Over the last decade, an increasing number of scholars from an International Relations/Political Studies background have conducted fieldwork in faraway places on various aspects of international interventions. While this is a welcome development, fieldwork in intervention contexts has suffered from various problems. Scholars lack the training offered by fieldwork-heavy disciplines such as social anthropology, and fieldwork practice has often been a 'muddling through' rather than a conscious engagement with 'the field'. Even where researchers have made use of ethnographic methods, these have proven partly inadequate for research into a field that is characterised by complex local—international interrelations and interactions. Also, access to the field in (potentially) violent contexts has been increasingly restricted by risk and liability concerns, forcing fieldwork to rely on a number of techniques that may inhibit/distort findings or raise ethical problems (remote data gathering, local research partners, embedded fieldwork etc.). It is the aim of this section to bring together researchers (senior and junior) who have conducted this type of fieldwork with the objective to reflect on the work they have carried out, the problems and constraints they have encountered, and the strategies they have developed to (try to) overcome them.

Possible topics to be discussed include:

  • Violence, risk and access to the field
  • Shifting positions at the academia—policy nexus
  • The role of local fixers, gatekeepers and research associates
  • The challenges of fieldwork at the international—local nexus
  • Storytelling, strategic information and the authenticity of information