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Ethics in the Field

Ethics in the Field: Contemporary Challenges

Jeremy MacClancy
Agustín Fuentes
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Ethics in the Field
    Book Description:

    In recent years ever-increasing concerns about ethical dimensions of fieldwork practice have forced anthropologists and other social scientists to radically reconsider the nature, process, and outcomes of fieldwork: what should we be doing, how, for whom, and to what end? In this volume, practitioners from across anthropological disciplines-social and biological anthropology and primatology-come together to question and compare the ethical regulation of fieldwork, what is common to their practices, and what is distinctive to each discipline. Contributors probe a rich variety of contemporary questions: the new, unique problems raised by fieldworking online and via email; the potential dangers of primatological fieldwork for locals, primates, the environment, and the fieldworkers themselves; the problems of studying the military; and the place of ethical clearance for anthropologists involved in international health programs. A further, distinctive aim of this book is to help the development of a transdisciplinary anthropology at the methodological, not theoretical, level.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-963-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
    Jeremy MacClancy and Agustín Fuentes
  5. 1 The Ethical Fieldworker, and Other Problems
    (pp. 1-23)
    Jeremy MacClancy and Agustín Fuentes

    We are, by definition, moral beings. There are no human groups without morals, however vaguely formulated, however unsystematic these morals might be. There are no non-human groups with them: apes, great or small, might display creativity and fellow concern, and many other primates and social mammals may engage in diverse forms of social reciprocity, but they do not have culturally prescribed standards of ethical conduct. Morality, in this sense, is a distinctive, essential, integral aspect of humanity. Without it, we are regarded as not just inhumane, but as inhuman.

    It is surprising, then, that a social anthropology of morality has...

  6. 2 Questioning Ethics in Global Health
    (pp. 24-41)
    Melissa Parker and Tim Allen

    Twenty-five years ago it was a common occurrence for anthropological fieldwork to be undertaken without securing ethical clearance, even if it involved collecting blood, urine or stool samples and/or investigating sensitive issues. This rarely happens now. Anthropologists working in the arena of global health, for example, are supposed to secure ethical clearance from their universities and gate-keepers as well as relevant ethical boards based at hospitals or Ministries of Health and allied research institutions.¹ Indeed, there is sometimes an apparently endless series of procedures, both formal and informal. While it may be the case that most anthropologists would accept the...

  7. 3 Ethical Issues in the Study and Conservation of an African Great Ape in an Unprotected, Human-Dominated Landscape in Western Uganda
    (pp. 42-66)
    Matthew R. McLennan and Catherine M. Hill

    Continuing human population growth in the tropics and the shrinkage, fragmentation and conversion of the natural habitats of nonhuman primates has meant that today primatology is increasingly conducted in human-dominated environments (Hill 2002; Paterson and Wallis 2005; Goulart et al. 2010; Moore et al. 2010; Campbell-Smith et al. 2011). Accordingly, prominent themes in applied primatology concern the conservation implications of human–nonhuman primate interactions and co-existence (Fuentes and Wolfe 2002; Riley 2007; Fuentes and Hockings 2010; Lee 2010), and the responses of primate species to human-driven habitat changes (Onderdonk and Chapman 2000; Chapman et al. 2003; Estrada 2006; Anderson et...

  8. 4 Are Observational Field Studies of Wild Primates Really Noninvasive?
    (pp. 67-83)
    Karen B. Strier

    Contemporary field primatologists, like other biological anthropologists, have become increasingly self-conscious about the ethical implications of their research (e.g., Turner 2004; Fedigan 2010; MacKinnon and Riley 2010). This is especially, but not exclusively, the case for those of us who work with threatened or endangered species because of the tensions between conservation and scientific priorities that inevitably arise. Concerns about our potential impact on the animals we seek to simultaneously study and save can create ethical dilemmas, only some of which can be anticipated and therefore resolved in advance. Others arise unpredictably or emerge as problems only gradually over the...

  9. 5 Complex and Heterogeneous Ethical Structures in Field Primatology
    (pp. 84-97)
    Nobuyuki Kutsukake

    Field ethics – a moral compass for decision making during fieldwork – is currently a necessitated but unstructured topic in primatology. Field primatologists are likely to confront ethical issues in relationships with local people and communities, governmental authorities, colleagues, funding agencies, the public, and the mass media (Eudey 2002; Fuentes and Wolfe 2002; Goldsmith 2005; Nash 2004; Ross et al. 2008; Turner 2004; Williamson and Feistner 2003; Wolfe 2005; Fedigan 2010; Garber et al. 2010; MacKinnon and Riley 2010; Malone et al. 2010; Strier 2010). In the ‘Anthropocene’ era (Crutzen 2002), in which the impact of human activity can never be ignored,...

  10. 6 Contemporary Ethical Issues in Field Primatology
    (pp. 98-107)
    Katherine C. MacKinnon and Erin P. Riley

    In general, primatologists adhere to a set of principles outlined in resolutions and policy statements on the ethical treatment of nonhuman primates, particularly in captivity and biomedical contexts. For primatologists who do fieldwork, the issues can be more obfuscated, and we often find ourselves immersed in matters such as primate health concerns (e.g., bidirectional transmission of pathogens between humans and nonhuman primates living in the same environments), and the conservation/management of wild primate populations (e.g., see Mittermeier et al. 2012). Therefore, the contemporary fieldwork environment presents an increasingly complex landscape in which to address human and nonhuman primate needs and...

  11. 7 The Ethics of Conducting Field Research: Do Long-Term Great Ape Field Studies Help to Conserve Primates?
    (pp. 108-123)
    K. Anne-Isola Nekaris and Vincent Nijman

    In a recent paper entitled ‘Research in Biodiversity Hotspots Should Be Free’, Pitman (2010) made a convincing case that by allowing visiting researchers to conduct research at a tropical field station without obliging them to pay a fee (with all operating cost being covered by an endowment), the research output of research sites would see a dramatic increase. Using data from the Los Amigos Biological Station in Amazonian Peru, Pitman (2010: 381) concluded:

    For every 150 researcher-days logged at Los Amigos […] an average of one peer-reviewed article or thesis was published four years later. Were the 50-bed station to...

  12. 8 Scrutinizing Suffering: The Ethics of Studying Contested Illness
    (pp. 124-139)
    Susie Kilshaw

    This chapter considers the ethical dilemmas and issues I faced throughout my research into Gulf War Syndrome (GWS). Despite there being ethical guidelines, ethics remains a grey area. Indeed, ethics can never be law, but instead must be enacted in particular situations and each particular circumstance may lend itself to different practice. We anthropologists are constantly faced with ethical conundrums about how we conduct our work and how others may use our publications or findings. We face challenges about how we present ourselves to and manage our ongoing relationship with informants, but also how we balance this with our relationship...

  13. 9 Messy Ethics: Negotiating the Terrain between Ethics Approval and Ethical Practice
    (pp. 140-155)
    Tina Miller

    All types of research raise and encounter ethical considerations. But what is ethical research, how is it practised and how far can/should it be regulated? In all social science disciplines there is evidence of growing ethical regulation set against a societal backdrop of increased concerns with risk, safety, accountability, surveillance and litigation. Across the UK, universities are now required to appoint ethics committees in order to ensure that ethical procedures are followed in research. These shifts have evoked different responses from research communities, ranging from viewing increased ethics regulation as helpful in providing guidance and frameworks, to concerns about how...

  14. 10 Key Ethical Considerations which Inform the Use of Anonymous Asynchronous Websurveys in ‘Sensitive’ Research
    (pp. 156-174)
    Em Rundall

    With internet usage and accessibility ever escalating, both in the UK and internationally, online research methodologies are an increasingly popular avenue of research both within and without the academe. Web research frequently provides a cost-effective, convenient, and in many cases highly efficient method of collecting data, particularly where a sample is widely geographically distributed, or where a high level of participation is sought and economic, temporal, and personnel constraints are in place. A diverse repertoire of online research tools is available, each with their own characteristics and associated ethical and methodological considerations. In some instances, the characteristics of an online...

  15. 11 Covering our Backs, or Covering all Bases? An Ethnography of URECs
    (pp. 175-190)
    Jeremy MacClancy

    Until relatively recently British social scientists were left to their own ethical devices, as were their French counterparts. It was assumed that, while researching, they would do no harm, that they would uphold a broadly humanitarian ethos. These days, those attitudes are often considered out of date. In the last decade UK academics have become obliged to submit research plans to the ethical review board of their employing institution, known as a University Research Ethics Committee (UREC). Causal factors for this change include: the ever-more widespread discourse and implementation in Europe of human rights legislation; British research councils’ increasing concerns...

  16. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 191-194)
  17. Index
    (pp. 195-216)