Field Research

Photo:  early morning between Kungu and Beya, Central African Republic 

The dilemmas and passions in intercultural field research – a female pedagogue’s ethnographic notes

The field research which I conduct has a dynamic and “mobile” character and entails the duality of the term field, as it becomes not merely a “peculiar space of a researcher’s experience” (Kaniowska), but the female researcher– nomad’s temporary “home”.

This research is done in environments outside Europe (African countries and the countries of the Caucasus), in socially, culturally and normatively distinct worlds of children and adults. It is conducted in places which are difficult due to external factors (natural environment, climate, social, political conditioning, etc.) and internal factors (the hermetic character of the studied community, difficult memory, poverty, children’s malnutrition, illnesses, discrimination and marginalisation).  At the same time,it is research in “sensitive” contexts (among communities affected by war, conflicts, rebellions and the burden of difficult history).

My journeys in the field, loneliness, young age, visual distinctness, the fact that I belong to the European cultural circle and come from a country of the Global North do not only make me “exotic” in the eyes of those I reach and study. They also entail the baggage of psychologically and physically negative experiences, difficult research situations, and at times border situations.








Visual ethnography in participatory research with children from an indigenous community
– the challenges and dilemmas of non-discrimination

While conducting research among and with children from the Ba’Aka indigenous community I applied methods based on engaging the participants in tasks to be carried out, in other words, engaging their voluntary involvement, opinions and knowledge in research activities. Visual ethnography was one of these methods. Treating children as competent research participants, legitimate partners and experts in explaining observable phenomena, I included (with their consent and the consent of their community – the clan) their experiences, knowledge and voices in the visual ethnography I conducted. To a large degree, our research showed the children that their actions and voices are very important and can become effective tools for change and activities for children and their community as well as the epicentre of their world – the place and space of their life (the rainforest).
In the text, I would like to outline (based on the research in Central African Republic) the challenges and dilemmas connected with conducting research that should be non-discriminatory, based on the principles of social justice, non-hierarchical relations and reciprocal learning by the participants and researchers. I also collected extensive research materials relating to the use of images and products made by Ba’Aka’ children by the employees and volunteers
of developmental and aid projects. They very often work with children from indigenous communities and – either consciously or unconsciously – appropriate the children’s images, voices and hand-made products.
They distribute them in the virtual world or use for commercial and fundraising purposes in Europe, and doing this they colonise children and childhood by spreading stereotypes and prejudice in the spirit of compassion and a sense of a “civilising mission”
More on the subject soon in a chapter of the ethics handbook “The Ethics of Research with Children and Young People: A Practical Handbook, 2020 SAGE” by Virginia Morrow & Priscilla Alderson