Negotiating Dangerous Fields: Pragmatic Strategies for Fieldwork Amid Violence and Terror

ABSTRACT: As anthropology turns toward the cultural issues of the 21st century, more and more ethnographic fieldwork is and will continue to be conducted in regions fraught with conflict,instability, and terror. Despite a growing literature that seeks to develop new theories and perspectives for the study of violence, little mention is made of the practical matters of survival in perilous field sites and how the anthropologist’s experience of violence in the field should be considered. What is needed is a pragmatic strategy for dealing with threats to the safety, security, and well-being of anthropologists and informants who work amid the menace of violence. Drawing on my own fieldwork in Haiti, I suggest the adoption of new tactics for ethnographic research and survival in dangerous fields – strategies
that challenge the conventional ethics of the discipline, reconfigure the relationship between anthropologist and informant, and compel innovation in negotiating the exchange of data under hazardous circumstances.

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