What ethical challenges are faced by researchers studying social and political movements? Should scholars integrate their personal politics and identities into their research? What role should activists have in shaping the purposes or processes of social scientific research? How do changing political contexts affect the ethical integrity of a research project over time?
These are some of the live issues of research ethics that face students and scholars whose research ‘subjects’ are located in contentious political terrain. The contributors to this volume expose their own ethical thinking as they have met such challenges head on. Each explores real dilemmas of ethical practice on the ground as they carry out research on social movements across the globe. Authors examining pro-democracy activists in Malaysia, sanctions-breakers in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, environmental health organisations in North America and much else find that the narrow confines of Research Ethics Committees and Institutional Review Boards offer little guidance on the questions that really matter. They offer instead a demonstration of continual reflexivity that is both personal and political in its approach. This book opens up debate on research ethics, delineating key challenges and offering hopeful and practical ways forward for real-world, ethical social science.
Abstract: 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.
Abstract: This paper examines the relationship between unofficial party blogs and official party sources in the UK using a mixed-method approach. Specifically we combine interview data with content analysis, user surveys and usage data, and finally hyperlink analysis to profile the emergence, popularity, audience and online prominence of four major party blogs since 2005. The core question posed is how far the blogs are challenging parties as the focal point for member activism and offering an alternative public ‘voice’. The findings show blogs occupy an important alternative critical space for party debate, particularly outside elections. They are not mobilizing tools, however, being used by the grassroots largely for information-gathering and discussion purposes.
‘Resilience’ has become a buzzword among a range of policy networks, wherein it serves as an ambition. People ought to become more resilient. The world is threatening: the economy, the climate and terrorism all figure as dangers against whose impacts we must resile. The fertile discourse of resilience spawns Continue reading Against resilience→
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. Continue reading Special Issue: The Ethics of Research on Activism→
Just spent the morning listening to a couple of folks who were labour activists in the 40s and 50s. Now wondering how we organise politically under the sociological conditions of late modernity. If the class structure isn’t there to support the traditional labour movement (in the same way), what can we build instead?
An important and tricky question, no doubt; in the following I may only succeeded in rewording it…
Conservatives in power, vicious cuts applied to the welfare state while regressive taxes increase, police violence perpetrated against the poor against a background of declining legitimacy. Yes, the parallels between 2011 and 1981 are irresistibly suggestive of a political explanation for the British summer riots.