Accepted Paper:

Ethics and the inevitability of bias in research on nuclear issues in India  


Raminder Kaur (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

I examine ethical concerns that arose during research on nuclear issues in India with the proponent of nuclear power and its disclaimers/protestors. Firstly, I examine implications for protestors to liaise with me. Secondly, I examine the inevitability of personal bias when it came to reporting on views on nuclear power.

Paper long abstract:

I examine the ethical concerns that arose during my research on nuclear issues in the proximity of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in south India, a nuclear site that underwent construction in 2002 and is designated to be Asia's largest.

Firstly, during the course of the fieldwork, I became very wary of the nature of my relationship with 'informants' who were against the plant, and who became what I would like to term friends in view of the opinions and activities we shared. In the process, I became conscious that to align too closely with them would be to raise suspicions on not only my intentions, but also their reasons for associating with me, technically an 'outsider' who could undermine their authority as national citizens and even subject them to accusations of 'terrorism'. I account for what strategies were put in place to mitigate such excesses.

Secondly, I account for the fact, that even though I interviewed and liaised with advocates of nuclear power, it was virtually impossible to maintain a semblance of neutrality in my work on the subject of 'perceptions and representations of nuclear issues in India'. Despite the fact that I attempted situational analyses, symbolic interpretations and contextual understanding, personal bias was inevitable due to a combination of my a priori views on nuclear power and the knowledge acquired and experiences gained during fieldwork. I place this realisation in the long tradition that anthropology has had with marginalised communities as opposed to state-backed and corporate elites.

Panel IW04
Ethically sensitive researches in anthropology