With, for, or by refugees? Practical and ethical challenges of participatory research

‘With, for, or by refugees? Practical and ethical challenges of participatory research’ Dr Kate Pincock, Overseas Development Institute and William Bakunzi, Independent Researcher

Trinity Term 2021 Seminar Series
Convener: Dr Evan Easton-Calabria

Driven by efforts to recognize the agency of refugees and thus the importance of their participation in research about their lives, refugees are increasingly being engaged to work as collaborators and assistants during research in refugee camps and settlements. Yet whilst refugees’ involvement in research about their lives is often framed as an ethical imperative, a growing body of work calls attention to the harmful consequences for refugees of participation. Drawing on our experiences of carrying out research in Nakivale settlement in Uganda in 2017, we reflect upon some challenges that fieldworkers and refugee researchers experience in attempting to undertake collaborative research, specifically focusing on the power dynamics which characterise research relationships. We reflect on the implications for ethical research with refugees and make some practical suggestions based on our experiences.

This public seminar series aims to examine research on refugees and forced migration within the broader localisation agenda, as well as methodological attempts to ‘localise’ refugee research through co-creating and co-conducting research with refugees and local hosts. Through a blend of practically-, methodologically-, and theoretically-focused seminars, this series aims to present current research designs and methodologies involving refugee and local researchers, and the challenges and opportunities that lie therein, as well as theoretical work reflecting on issues of ethics and power. Concomitant with these discussions will be ongoing examinations of the relationship between advocacy and scholarship, and the extent to which both can and should be met together.