Special Issue: The Ethics of Research on Activism

Published in 2012 as Social Movement Studies 11(2). Editors: Kevin Gillan & Jenny Pickerill.

From the editors’ introduction (with Jenny Pickerill):

“This article explores a number of key questions that serve to introduce this special issue on the ethics of research on activism. We first set out the limitations of the bureaucratic response to ethical complexities in our field. We then examine two approaches often used to justify research that demands time consuming and potentially risky participation in research by activists. We label these approaches the ethic of immediate reciprocity and the ethic of general reciprocity and question their impacts. We note, in particular, the tendency of ethics of reciprocity to preclude research on ‘ugly movements’ whose politics offends the left and liberal leanings predominant among movement researchers. The two ethics also imply different positionalities for the researcher vis-à-vis their subject movement which we explore, alongside dilemmas thrown up by multiple approaches to knowledge production and by complex issues of researcher and activist identities. The overall move to increasing complexity offered by this paper will, we hope, provide food for thought for others who confront real-world ethical dilemmas in fields marked by contention. We also hope that it will encourage readers to turn next to the wide range of contributions offered in this issue.”


We’re really excited about the range and quality of contributions to this issue.  The full Table of Contents is:

The Difficult and Hopeful Ethics of Research on, and with, Social Movements
Kevin Gillan & Jenny Pickerill

Social Movements and the Ethics of Knowledge Production
Graeme Chesters

Reflexive Research Ethics for Environmental Health and Justice: Academics and Movement Building
Alissa Cordner, David Ciplet, Phil Brown & Rachel Morello-Frosch

Ethical and Political Challenges of Participatory Action Research in the Academy: Reflections on Social Movements and Knowledge Production in South Africa
Marcelle C. Dawson & Luke Sinwell

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla: Human Rights, Activism and Academic Neutrality
Anne de Jong

Sisterhood and After: Individualism, Ethics and an Oral History of the Women’s Liberation Movement
Margaretta Jolly, Polly Russell & Rachel Cohen

Ethics, Activism and the Anti-Colonial: Social Movement Research as Resistance
Adam Gary Lewis

Disclosed and Willing: Towards A Queer Public Sociology
Ana Cristina Santos

Asking Tough Questions: The Ethics of Studying Activism in Democratically Restricted Environments
Sandra Smeltzer

A Personal Reflection on Negotiating Fear, Compassion and Self-Care in Research
S. J. Creek