Accepted Paper:

Understanding potential danger and its impact on fieldwork  

Author:

Kamela Heyward-Rotimi (KERG USA; Duke University USA)

Paper short abstract:

The aim of this paper is to move towards a better understanding of the potentiality of danger versus actual danger in fieldwork for the researcher and their community of study. The findings are based on research conducted in Southwestern Nigeria on 419 online scams and Nigerian communities.

Paper long abstract:

Theorization of volatile fieldwork sites—what Kovats-Bernat (2002) refers to as 'dangerous fields'—seldom considers potential danger in field sites, and its impact on various stages of fieldwork. This paper conceptualizes what I refer to as potential danger defined as possible violence in the field. The aim of this paper is to move towards a better understanding of the potentiality of danger versus actual danger in fieldwork for the researcher and their community of study. Specifically, it aims to explore how casting regional violence as a countrywide mandate to not travel thus engage with certain communities can impede researchers' movement within research sites. The findings are based on an ethnographic study I conducted which examines the socioeconomic impact of the extralegal activity of 419 online scams—also known as Yahoo-Yahoo—on Nigerian communities. This multi-sited study was conducted over three years in Southwestern Nigeria in the cities of Ile Ife, and Osogbo, both located in Osun State. Fieldwork experience demonstrated that US State Department travel warnings that cautioned US citizens against travel to any churches, malls, and other gathering spots within Nigeria thus monitor US researchers' movement failed to address that terrorist acts were concentrated in Northern Nigeria and did not pose immediate danger to Southwestern Nigeria. A nuanced exploration of potential danger and its impact on fieldwork and methodological approaches can contribute to discussions of danger in the field.

Panel WIM-HLT05b
Moving moralities: anthropological fieldwork and risk in a violent world