Sexual violence during research: How the unpredictability of fieldwork and the right to risk collide with academic bureaucracy and expectations

Luisa T. Schneider*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

In a contradictory fashion, researchers, their departments and universities simultaneously recognize the unpredictability of fieldwork experiences and outcomes and help establish a bureaucratic system of planning every component of their research. Ethnographic unpredictability and its consequences are a fact of fieldwork and it is essential that researchers and institutions are prepared to view these as part of interpretable data, to learn from them and not mask them. This article examines ethnographic unpredictability through the lens of sexual violence which I experienced during my doctoral fieldwork in Sierra Leone. I show how I redirected my research and renegotiated my position as an academic. I discuss the culture of risk and analyse the influence of neoliberalism on the university. I describe how ‘market logic’ conceptualizes unpredictability as competitive disadvantage. I show the impact that the imaginary ‘perfect academic’ has on early career researchers and the complicity of mainstream academic (re-)presentation in nourishing the image of the ‘in-control academic’ through muting personal field experiences and vulnerabilities and silencing unpredictable occurrences in academic writing. I conclude with recommendations on how personal situatedness, vulnerabilities, and transformations can be approached as factors in every research endeavour which must not pose threats to an institution’s competitive advantage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-193
Number of pages21
JournalCritique of Anthropology
Volume40
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Academic silence
  • ethnographic unpredictability
  • neoliberal university
  • right to risk
  • risk management
  • sexual violence

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