Dangerous Research: Reflections on fieldwork in an insecure context, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

Colloquium | November 1 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 2538 Channing (Inst. for the Study of Societal Issues), Wildavsky Conference Roomt

 Ann A. Laudati, Ciriacy-Wanthrup Research Fellow, Department of Geography, UC Berkeley

 Center for Ethnographic Research, Center for African Studies

Just as new forms of war and non-state armed actors have blurred the lines of the battlefield, researchers - whether they like it or not - have become part of the social, political, and economic equations that shape life in conflict zones. In many cases, they have little control over those equations. However, descriptions of scholarly findings often leave out these details, intentionally or unintentionally portraying the researcher as independent and in control. Drawing on over 16 months of qualitative fieldwork in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this talk aims to re-center discussions of “doing dangerous fieldwork”. It considers not only methodology as a practical consideration, but also the fact that who we are, how we are seen, with whom we interact and how we respond matter and, ultimately, play a considerable role in shaping the field, both for the researcher and the researched, in which we work in and after we’ve left.

 issi@berkeley.edu, 5106420813