Whether and under what conditions can undisclosed research be ethically grounded? Taking stock of past and current uses of undisclosed research this panel seeks to reflect on its implications for the future of anthropology.
Taking stock of past and current uses of undisclosed research, this panel seeks to reflect on its implications for the future of anthropology. Undisclosed research is highly problematical as acknowledged by ethical guidelines within and beyond anthropology. After all we are bound by the principles of informed consent and 'do no harm'. Yet, in certain circumstances (confinement, crime, illegality, etc.) access to institutions, practices and subjects may be limited or denied altogether to researchers. As such anthropologists often combine different roles in the field: they are not just researchers - they are also legal representatives, social workers, volunteers, teachers… Adopting multiple roles, with or without disclosure, raises in turn multiple ethical dilemmas. This panel does not seek to assert a position forward or against undisclosed research but rather to bring to light how deception is currently used in anthropology and encourage its adequate discussion. Is it ever desirable, or even permissible, to sidestep full disclosure of the researcher's aims and positionality if that is the only way to obtain information (provided there is no harm to subject other than the deception)? Or does such a decision demand the consideration of the importance of that data? Are some actors more deserving of disclosure than others (e.g., a coercive institution versus the people who are confined within)? Under what conditions can undisclosed research be ethically grounded? We invite empirical, historical and conceptual contributions that address these issues from a variety of standpoints.