Mistakes, Crises, and Research Independence: The Perils of Fieldwork as a form of Evidence

Journal article


Cramer, C., Johnston, D., Oya, C. and Sender, J. (2016). Mistakes, Crises, and Research Independence: The Perils of Fieldwork as a form of Evidence. African Affairs. 115 (458), pp. 145-160. https://doi.org/10.1093/afraf/adv067
AuthorsCramer, C., Johnston, D., Oya, C. and Sender, J.
Abstract

Drawing on examples from rural Ethiopia and Uganda, this research note highlights some of the difficulties experienced in fieldwork. These difficulties do not justify the reluctance of increasingly risk-averse universities and funders to support independent fieldwork in Africa, but they do show that the rationale for research and the features of its design can provoke animosity and tensions. They also show that our own failure on occasion to appreciate local political dynamics made the situation more difficult. Challenges and threats came not only from local political forces but also from multinational companies and Fairtrade organizations uncomfortable with our findings and with fully independent research. The research note argues that the details of our experience have a practical value for other researchers, and that at least some of them should be treated as substantive forms of evidence and insight, rather than simply as threats or failures. We conclude that some crude best-practice norms and pressures on academics to form partnerships to conduct policy-relevant work may undermine the potential for truly independent and intensive field research. However, crises should not necessarily be seen as an unwelcome interruption to smooth processes of research; they can illuminate the context and power relations that the research is trying to understand.

Year2016
JournalAfrican Affairs
Journal citation115 (458), pp. 145-160
PublisherOxford University Press
ISSN00019909
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1093/afraf/adv067
Publication dates
Print29 Dec 2015
Publication process dates
Deposited12 Jan 2023
Accepted author manuscript
License
File Access Level
Open
Additional information

This is the Accepted Version of Cramer, C., Johnston, D., Oya, C. and Sender, J. ‘Mistakes,
Crises, and research independence: the perils of fieldwork as a form of evidence. Published
online in African Affairs by Oxford University Press. Available at: 10.1093/afraf/adv067

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https://openresearch.lsbu.ac.uk/item/93009

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