Learning From the Field
Fieldwork means interviewing, observing, participating, interacting and otherwise soaking up everything that we can learn about a given context. Any endorsement of field research for international politics comes with some important caveats. Fieldwork also poses a series of ethical quandaries to the researcher, congregating a central theme, what Ratelle calls the academic insistence on “speaking for the field rather than listening to it”. Fieldwork bears a variety of risks: political, physical, emotional, ethical. Done well, however, it promises radical and continuous engagement with ethics, power and processes of subject-formation. Interdisciplinarity and the layering that Cohn highlights are a key strength that immersion in the field offers for political research projects of all kinds. Field research runs the risk of acting as an “unsolicited surrogate voice by the knowing subject on behalf of unspeaking objects”, and each researcher must engage with these problems before entering ‘the field’.