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Accepted Paper:

How dare they think I am vulnerable! When ethics committee of EU universities rob the agency of anthropological subjects  
Priyanka Borpujari (Dublin City University)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper will delve into the mechanisms of how the ethics committees of European universities—in an attempt to correct colonial relics inherent in anthropology—find themselves far removed from the lived experiences of other cultures, and deprive research subjects of their agency.

Paper Abstract:

I was convinced that the best way to understand the experiences of older widows who use social media would be to interrogate the lives of my mother and several aunts, whose lives had drastically evolved upon widowhood and their use of social media. I decided to embark upon intimate ethnography (Waterston & Rylko-Bauer, 2006) as my research methodology, with an “intimate other” as the subject of research.

Family outsiders—people who do not have a shared history or future commitment—may have a difficult time trying to access the lived, personal, embodied experiences of this history and commitment. However, an insider—a member of the family—can describe and analyse this in novel and nuanced ways (Adams & Manning, 2015), and this was what I was attempting in understanding the lives of older women in 21st century India. Key to my research questions was the idea of agency that the women exercised.

However, my application to the ethics committee within my European university was promptly rejected. Vulnerability of the widows was a key concern, even though I had explicitly mentioned that the women had been widowed since several years. So when my mother asked me about the progress of my research and I told her that my university viewed her as too vulnerable for my research, she blurted those words in anger and disdain.

This paper—drawing in from the application to the ethics committee and their responses—will delve into the mechanisms of how the ethics committees of universities find themselves far removed from the lived experiences of other cultures.

Panel P172
What’s in a name? A reality check on recent claims and practices of decolonising anthropology
  Session 2 Thursday 25 July, 2024, -