Accepted Paper:

The Problems with gossip: Reflections on the ethics of conducting multi-sited ethnographic research  


Tamsin Bradley (University of Portsmouth)

Paper long abstract:

This paper reflects on the lessons learnt from conducting multi-sited ethnography for a component of a large research programme. The component aimed to assess the extent to which standard religious teachings inform the values and beliefs by which local people live and how these religious values and beliefs do or do not shape their ideas about certain aspects of development. The research was carried out in Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Tanzania as part of a larger programme. The research was conducted by fieldworkers many of whom had received no previous training in ethnographic techniques. This research was conducted through a set of complex relationships. At local level the fieldworkers were often rooted in the communities they studied and the process of becoming ethnographic interviewers was uneasy involving a change in the nature of their relationships with many research participants. The informal dialogues that represent much of the data collected were only made possible because of the friendships and respect the fieldworkers were awarded by the communities in which they also lived. These friendships were made vulnerable by the passing on of this data to a funder whose relationship to these communities was often described by participants as problematic. This paper documents my unease as coordinator asked to 'capacity-build' and write about the lives of people I have never met. This paper reflects openly on the ethics of this research experience whilst also maintaining that the close insight the anthropological lens brings to large scale inter-disciplinary research programmes is important.

Panel P04
The ethics of (relations of) knowledge-creation