Case Studies in Human Rights Activism

Presenter/Author Information

Michael Loadenthal, Georgetown University

Location

University of Dayton

Start Date

10-2-2015 4:00 PM

End Date

10-2-2015 5:30 PM

Abstract

Research methodology is often understood as a dry, sterile arena of IRB forms and transcription. While this is a common portrayal, things get a fair bit livelier when our field work runs amuck of extrajudicial assassinations, police infiltration and academic isolationism. Investigating social movements and individual respondents who are actively engaged in criminality presents challenging dilemmas to researchers attempting to gain respond trust while simultaneous avoid repressive State security forces. In this discussion, I will examine two venues in which this difficult navigation surfaced: ethnographically investigating Palestinian armed fighters (Nablus: 2006-2007), and interviewing clandestine Animal Liberation Front (ALF) activists (UK: 2009- 2010).

In both situations, respondents sought to remain “underground” while simultaneously providing rich analytical data. While the Palestinian fieldwork involved incidents of direct violence with military, police, and intelligence forces (including my eventual deportation), complexities emerged when Israeli ‘terrorist amnesty’ policies changed the State’s recognition of respondents—allowing yesterday’s terrorist to become tomorrow’s civil servant. For the UK, the challenge was different, as international efforts to produce arrests within the ALF network has forced numerous academics engaged in such inquiries to appear on Grand Juries or face jail time. These two research projects have presented divergent, yet intersectional concerns regarding not only the safety of the researcher, but also of the respondents.

To this end we will examine two central questions:

  1. What is the role of the human rights researcher in protecting respondents’ anonymity?
  2. To what degree can we oppose state repression whilst remaining academically viable?

Comments

This biennial conference provides a unique space for scholars, practitioners and advocates to engage in collaboration, dialogue and critical analysis of human rights advocacy — locally and globally. Learn more about the Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton >>>.

 
Oct 2nd, 4:00 PM Oct 2nd, 5:30 PM

Putting It on the Line: Social Justice Frameworks for Human Rights Fieldwork (abstract)

University of Dayton

Research methodology is often understood as a dry, sterile arena of IRB forms and transcription. While this is a common portrayal, things get a fair bit livelier when our field work runs amuck of extrajudicial assassinations, police infiltration and academic isolationism. Investigating social movements and individual respondents who are actively engaged in criminality presents challenging dilemmas to researchers attempting to gain respond trust while simultaneous avoid repressive State security forces. In this discussion, I will examine two venues in which this difficult navigation surfaced: ethnographically investigating Palestinian armed fighters (Nablus: 2006-2007), and interviewing clandestine Animal Liberation Front (ALF) activists (UK: 2009- 2010).

In both situations, respondents sought to remain “underground” while simultaneously providing rich analytical data. While the Palestinian fieldwork involved incidents of direct violence with military, police, and intelligence forces (including my eventual deportation), complexities emerged when Israeli ‘terrorist amnesty’ policies changed the State’s recognition of respondents—allowing yesterday’s terrorist to become tomorrow’s civil servant. For the UK, the challenge was different, as international efforts to produce arrests within the ALF network has forced numerous academics engaged in such inquiries to appear on Grand Juries or face jail time. These two research projects have presented divergent, yet intersectional concerns regarding not only the safety of the researcher, but also of the respondents.

To this end we will examine two central questions:

  1. What is the role of the human rights researcher in protecting respondents’ anonymity?
  2. To what degree can we oppose state repression whilst remaining academically viable?