chapter  16
Staying Alive while Conducting Primary Research: Fieldwork on Political Violence
Pages 26

Today, political violence and armed conflict have grown to epidemic proportions and have become globally endemic. There are approximately 25 ‘major’ wars and 80-100 lesser armed conflicts, and if we include other forms of political violence in many people’s lives such as riots, civil disorder, coups, terrorism and particularly state terrorism such as extrajudicial killings, torture and intimidation, then the number of people directly affected runs into the hundreds of millions or even billions. As a result, more researchers are studying violence, and more who are not studying violence per se are finding themselves working in violent contexts. As a result, managing danger in fieldwork has become a pressing issue for those conducting primary research on political violence or in locations characterised by such violence. While much has now been written about the conduct of fieldwork (see Robben and Sluka 2007), relatively little has formally been written about handling or managing danger as a methodological issue. In line with Kovats-Bernat’s (2002) call for developing pragmatic strategies for negotiating danger in fieldwork on and amidst violence, this chapter identifies the best strategies that have emerged in the literature so far. I briefly review the key literature on this topic and draw on it to make recommendations for developing strategies primarily for managing physical dangers from human sources (research participants, authorities and others), and believe that what I say here is generally applicable to all qualitative social science researchers who conduct fieldwork on or amidst violence.