Postgraduate Research Event: The Politics and Ethics of Research on Contentious Terrain

by | 9 Oct 2015 | Events, The Blog | 0 comments


10am – 2.30pm, 2nd November in the Hanson Room, Humanities Bridgeford Street, University of Manchester. [map link]

Researchers focused on politically contentious topics encounter ethical issues at every stage of research. This half-day workshop is designed to allow you to work through these issues with experienced staff and postgraduate researchers in the social sciences, in an open, discursive space. We hope to bring together postgraduates at all stages working on social movements, conflict zones, political organisations and other politicised terrains to address questions such as:

  • Should you integrate your personal politics into your professional research processes?
  • What role can political actors play in shaping your research decisions?
  • Is it acceptable to publicly criticise your friends or allies?
  • How can you write with balance about a social movement you are participating in?
  • How can you avoid risk to your research participants when you publish?

Conducting research in contentious and politically contested environments can present the researcher with a particular series of challenges and ethical concerns. Researchers can face difficult questions concerning the political and personal consequences of their work, as well as the negotiation of issues such as security, anonymity and personal safety. These may be mediated by deeply held sympathies or antipathies, as well as a sensitivity to the risk associated with documenting certain practices or organisations. Such work may include participants and respondents with particular understandings and expectations regarding the relationship between the research and their activities, or the wider political situation in which they operate.

The workshop will be led by staff and PGR students with expertise in examining issues of research ethics. After some short presentations participants will take part in interactive activities, and break-out group discussions on the basis of their own experiences and a reading pack (see below for readings). Emphasising conversation and participatory exercises, the workshop aims to foster a community of peers facing similar issues in their work, framing this around key debates and positions in the field.

The workshop will be followed by a networking lunch to allow postgraduate students to further develop a network of peers facing similar academic challenges.

The event is free, but places are limited and you must apply by registering for a ticket on Eventbrite before 20th October.  We will send confirmation emails on 21st Oct.

We have a limited travel fund available for train travel to Manchester from Lancaster or Liverpool. In the event of high demand, preference will be given to students funded by the ESRC, who are also providing funds for this event.

Any queries to

Event Reading Pack


Jamie Matthews

Jamie Matthews is a final year PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Manchester. Jamie’s PhD thesis is a critical ethnography of Occupy London, focusing on questions of ideology, identity, and social movement spatial practice. The project emerges from his own participation in Occupy.

Kevin GillanKevin Gillan

Kevin Gillan is a lecturer in sociology at the University of Manchester and Editor in Chief at the journal Social Movement Studies. He has interests that overlap between social movements scholarship and economic sociology.