There is a growing impetus for graduate students and more seasoned researchers to carry out research in areas affected by conflict and violence. Embedded in these unique places are particular sets of issues that researchers, research participants and communities each face. These particularities present a rich but difficult terrain of inquiry for scholars attempting to navigate complex environments and for the people who reside there, who become involved in the research process. While a modicum of instructional texts has emerged to guide researchers working in conflict incidents around the world, serious attention to the subject of ‘doing research in violent settings’ remains lacking.
The research process in conflict-affected spaces around the world is rarely reflected in current academic guidelines and ethical frameworks on doing fieldwork. These texts tend to steer researchers towards problem-solving approaches and focus on commonly discussed issues such as consent, confidentiality and ‘doing no harm’ through narrowly constructed lenses. They also often avoid serious engagement with the realities of conflict research such as negotiating with warlords or working with survivors of sexual violence in ongoing conflict areas. All too often questions of affect, identity, violence and critical self-understanding in such environments are ignored. This book puts these issues at the centre, and posits them as fundamental to comprehensive discussions about researching violence and understanding the potential violence of academic praxis today.
The purpose of this book is to offer a broader lens to conflict research than the common focus on technical questions of methods and ethics. It aims to deconstruct what it means to ‘do’ research and what research ‘does’ in conflict-affected or violent contexts to all of those involved in such endeavours – the researcher and research participants and community members.
This short introductory chapter sets the stage for this volume, identifies the chasms in the field that the book seeks to narrow, outlines the key aims and guiding themes of the book, and provides an overview of its contents.
To interrupt means to break the continuity of a process, a line, a repeated action or an accepted way of thinking. In music, for example, an interruption takes place when a rhythmic or melodic pattern, with a seemingly perfect cadence, moves towards a finale but is then suddenly deflected when the anticipated ending is deferred or replaced by other chords.