Fieldwork as Social Transformation: Place, Time, and Power in a Violent Moment

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This special issue addresses the urgent need for reflexive introspection about conducting research in violent contexts. To do so, it explores two interrelated dimensions of the places where researchers conduct fieldwork: 1) temporality; and 2) power. In the current political moment, fully engaging with these dimensions of field sites has become an ethical and security imperative, as well as a methodological imperative. Once we put these two dimensions at the centre of analysis, the need to re-conceptualize fieldwork beyond the binaries of here/there and insider/outsider also becomes apparent. Thus, this special issue approaches fieldwork, not only as a means to a research end, but instead, as an opportunity for social action in itself. From a variety of methodological and epistemological positions, the contributors to this issue build on recent feminist work that explores fieldwork’s geopolitical dimensions. Collectively, these interdisciplinary essays argue in favor of reimagining fieldwork as an imaginative and transformative act.

We live in a violent moment. A wave of xenophobia has simultaneously swept across both sides of the Atlantic. Governments in Europe and the Americas are militarizing borders and repudiating legal obligations to refugees. Meanwhile, in many places, a deepening cycle of extrajudicial violence and crime blurs boundaries between war and peace. Conflicts and displacements spurred by neoliberal globalization often do not look like traditional wars (Kaldor 2012). Instead, in many areas around the globe, state and non-state armed groups vie for profits and power, compounding precarity for lives already made vulnerable by economic marginalization. Media representations of this seemingly chaotic violence justify border fortifications at the expense of refugee lives lost in the Mediterranean sea and the Arizona desert crossing. Meanwhile, the climate change crisis looms, and expectations of resulting population displacements further the border control and securitization agenda (Miller 2017).




Taylor & Francis

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