Category: General Message
Subject: Proposal: www.fieldworkconditions.org
With thanks and best wishes,
Ed Schatz, University of Toronto
John Heathershaw, University of Exeter
In June 2014 Alexander Sodiqov, a PhD student from the University of Toronto, was arbitrarily detained by the Tajik secret police in the midst of academic research he was conducting under contract with the University of Exeter in Khorog, Tajikistan.
Alexander has been released from custody but is still under investigation for espionage and prevented from leaving Tajikistan to resume his studies in Canada. Beyond the details of the case (see www.freealexsodiqov.org), this instance generally highlights the crucial need for scholars to be equipped with the fullest information about changing fieldwork conditions in particular places.
Indeed, it is the very arbitrariness of Sodiqov’s detention that is concerning. Scholars have long known how important it is to anticipate risks to self and others that come with fieldwork. Scholars have long recognized that some research questions can be expected to encounter methodological or other obstacles. What seems new is the rapidity of shifting conditions. Thus, the platform www.fieldworkconditions.org is envisioned as a space via which research scholars—across disciplines—may share information about fieldwork conditions as they change.
We propose that www.fieldworkconditions.org be voluntary, designed to protect research subjects and research scholars by prioritizing (where appropriate) anonymity and suppression of identifying details, and moderated.
At this stage, we seek feedback about:
1) similar platforms or efforts;
2) how such an effort might be received in various academic disciplines or fields of study;
3) how to make the effort maximally useful and practical.