It’s not just a game of football – Methodological and ethical issues in ethnographic research with militant activists


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MENARG and CRG kindly invite you to the following lectures, which are part of a series of research seminars on “Methods and Ethics in Fieldwork”. During these seminars national and international guests will be sharing their ‘story behind the findings’ with researchers from different departments, to have a profound reflection on methodological and ethical questions in performing empirical research.

Since 2012 Martijn De Koning has been involved in the Public Islamic Mission (PIM), a research project that used social media to connect with Muslim militants who affiliated themselves with the ideology of Al Qaeda and, in various ways, showed support for the implementation of sharia laws in the countries where they were based: the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. In 2013 the socio-political field changed, as a large part of the militants had left for Syria to join the Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels against the Assad regime. How is one to do ethnographic research among and with militant activists who have been labelled as radicals’, ‘crazies’, ‘idiots’ and ‘dangerous fanatics’ by the international media and public opinion? What kind of ethical issues emerge and how does this change when the socio-political context also changes dramatically? In this seminar, Martijn de Koning will elaborate on his research among the Dutch groups and take up three issues: how does a new socio-political context create new strategic and ethical questions? What are the consequences of dealing with groups that many people in society regard as repulsive and dangerous? Where and how to draw the boundaries of participant observation? He will in particular focus on the relation between strategic, ethical and political issues.

Martijn de Koning obtained his PhD in Anthropology at the VU University on religious identities among young Moroccan-Dutch youth. After his PhD he worked on Salafism as Transnational Movement project at the Radboud University Nijmegen and ISIM in Leiden. Currently he is teaching at the Department of Islamstudies at the Radboud University Nijmegen and is a postdoc at the Department of Cultural Anthropology of the University of Amsterdam where is involved in a project on Muslim activism in the Netherlands after 1989 and on contested Muslim marriages. He maintains his own weblog: http://religionresearch.org/closer