The ‘Tribal Politics’ of Field Research in 21st-Century Warzones. Can fieldwork still be done in today’s most violent warzones?


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A seminar by Romain Malejack (Radboud University)

In his talk, based on the Perspectives on Politics article he co-authored with Dipali Mukhopadhyay, Romain Malejacq will explain why long-held  methodological principles about power and impartiality do not hold in
today’s conflict-ridden environments. He will show that this kind of research can still be pursued, but only if the scholar’s place is reconceived as one of limited power and unavoidable partiality. Romain Malejacq will explain that those still able to do fieldwork in sites of increasing danger often do so by virtue of building their own ‘tribes,’ forming and joining different social micro-systems to collect data and, in some cases, survive. Field research must, therefore, be recognized as its own form of foreign intervention. In considering the future of political science research in the most challenging war-torn settings, Romain Malejacq will examine the risks and opportunities that accompany ‘tribal
politics’ of this kind and underline the importance of reflecting on our own positionality in the process of knowledge production.

Romain Malejack is assistant Professor at the Centre for International Conflict Analysis and Management at Radboud University, Nijmegen. His research focuses on why stable institutional orders and states emerge in particular circumstances. It engages scholarship on violence, political order, and state formation and explores the nature of alternative power structures in conflict environments

This seminar is 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.

For more information and registration, please contact Karen.buscher@ugent.be