10: Insights from Uganda: Wartime Sexual Violence, Knowledge Production, and Power

Author:
Restricted access
Rights and permissions Cite this chapter

Empirical research on wartime abduction and sexual violence presents multiple challenges. Researchers travel to conflict contexts to speak with survivors yet accessing and engaging them is difficult. Many years of recovery may have already passed, or stigmatization may compel them to keep a low profile. Even after finding ways of accessing them, re-traumatization and research fatigue might make them, and their families, want to distance themselves from research projects. This chapter draws upon my fieldwork in Uganda, working with formerly abducted women and survivors of sexual violence. It reflects on experience working with these women and their communities to find an acceptable compromise between obtaining high-quality information, limiting the inherent risks involved with obtaining this data and reconciling with research ethics and practical challenges. The central argument is that research methods, ethics, and fieldwork practices need to be adapted in culturally and experientially sensitive ways to keep the survivors safe and the research on ethically solid ground. The chapter discusses the challenges and dilemmas of accessing and interacting with formerly abducted women and the layered effects of my positionality, privilege, and power.

  • Ackerly, B. and True, J. (2008) ‘Reflexivity in practice: power and ethics in feminist research on international relations’, International Studies Review, 10(4): 693707.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Allen, T. (2006) Trial Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Lord’s Resistance Army, London: Zed Books.

  • Ayça, E. and Erdemir, A. (2010) ‘Negotiating insider and outsider identities in the field: “insider” in a foreign land; “outsider” in one’s own land’, Field Methods, 22(1): 1638.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Baines, E. and Stewart, B. (2011) ‘“I cannot accept what I have not done”: storytelling, gender and transitional justice’, Journal of Human Rights Practice, 3(3): 24563.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Basini, H. (2016) ‘“Doing no harm”: methodological and ethical challenges of working with women associated with fighting forces/ex-combatants in Liberia’, in A.T.R. Wibben (ed) Researching War: Feminist Methods, Ethics and Politics, New York: Routledge, pp 16384.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bilgen, A., Nasir, A., and Schöneberg, J. (2021) ‘Why positionalities matter: reflections on power, hierarchy, and knowledges in “development” research’, Canadian Journal of Development Studies, 42(4): 51936.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bott, E. (2010) ‘Favourites and others: reflexivity and the shaping of subjectivities and data in qualitative research’, Qualitative Research, 10(2): 15973. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794109356736

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bouka, Y. (2015) ‘Researcher positionality’, Conflict Field Research, [online]. Available from: http://conflictfieldresearch.colgate.edu/working-papers/%20researcher-positionality/ [Accessed 21 December 2023].

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bunting, A., Kiconco, A., and Quirk, J. (eds) (2020) Research as more than extraction? Knowledge production and sexual violence in post conflict African societies, Beyond Trafficking and Slavery, Open Democracy, London

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Campbell, S.P. (2017) ‘Ethics of research in conflict environments’, Journal of Global Security Studies, 2(1): 89101.

  • Chakravarty, A. (2012) ‘“Partially trusting”: field relationships opportunities and constraints of fieldwork in Rwanda’s post-conflict setting’, Field Methods, 24(3): 25171.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cramer, C., Hammond, L., and Pottier, J. (eds) (2011) Researching Violence in Africa: Ethical and Methodological Challenges, Leiden and Boston: Brill.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cramer, C., Johnston, D., Oya, C., and Sender, J. (2021) ‘Mistakes, crises, and research independence: the perils of fieldwork as a form of evidence’, African Affairs, 115(458): 14560.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cronin-Furman, K. and Lake, M. (2018) ‘Ethics abroad: fieldwork in fragile and violent contexts’, Political Science and Politics, 51(3): 60714.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dodsworth, S. and Cheeseman N. (2018) ‘The potential and pitfalls of collaborating with development organisations and policymakers in Africa’, African Affairs, 117(466): 13045.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Eriksson Baaz, M. and Stern, M. (2016) ‘Researching wartime rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo’, in A.T.R. Wibben (ed) Researching War: Feminist Methods, Ethics and Politics, New York: Routledge, pp 11740.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jørgen, C., Bivane Erdal, M., and Ezzati, R. (2014) ‘Beyond the insider–outsider divide in migration research’, Migration Studies, 2(1): 3654.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Keikelame, M.J. (2018) ‘“The tortoise under the couch”: an African woman’s reflections on negotiating insider-outsider positionalities and issues of serendipity on conducting a qualitative research project in Cape Town’, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 21: 21930.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kiconco, A. (2021) Gender, Conflict and Reintegration in Uganda: Abducted Girls, Returning Women, London: Routledge.

  • Krause, J. (2021) ‘The ethics of ethnographic methods in conflict zones’, Journal of Peace Research, 58(3): 32941.

  • Lewis, C. et al (2019) ‘Walking the line: brokering humanitarian identities in conflict research’, Civil Wars, 21(2): 20027.

  • Mackenzie, C., McDowell, C., & Pittaway, E. (2007) ‘Beyond “do no harm”: the challenge of constructing ethical relationships in refugee research’, Journal of Refugee Studies, 20(2): 299319. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/jrs/fem008

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mandiyanike, D. (2009) ‘The dilemma of conducting research back in your own country as a returning student: reflections of research fieldwork in Zimbabwe’, Area, 41: 6471.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mitchell, A. (2013) ‘Escaping the “field trap”: exploitation and the global politics of educational fieldwork in “conflict zones”’, Third World Quarterly, 34(7): 124764.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Murchison, J. (2010) Ethnography Essentials: Designing, Conducting, and Presenting Your Research, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

  • Mwambari, D. (2019) ‘Local positionality in the production of knowledge in northern Uganda’, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 18: 112.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nhemachena, A., Mlambo, N., and Kaundjua, M. (2016) ‘The notion of the “field” and the practices of researching and writing Africa: towards decolonial praxis’, Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies, 9(7): 1536.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ojok, M.J. (2013) ‘Power dynamics and the politics of fieldwork under Sudan’s prolonged conflict’, in D. Mazurana, K. Jacobsen, and L.A. Gale (eds) Research Methods in Conflict Settings: A View from Below, New York: Cambridge University Press, pp 14965.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Oosterveld, V. (2011) ‘The gender jurisprudence of the Special Court for Sierra Leone: progress in the Revolutionary United Front judgments’, Cornell International Law Journal, 44: 4974.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Parashar, S. (2019) ‘Research brokers, researcher identities and affective performances: the insider/outsider conundrum’, Civil Wars, 21(2): 24970.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sultana, F. (2015) ‘Reflexivity, positionality and participatory ethics: negotiating fieldwork dilemmas in international research’, ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 6(3): 37485. Available from: https://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/786 [Accessed 15 December 2023].

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Thomson, S., Ansoms, A., and Murison, J. (eds) (2013) Emotional and Ethical Challenges for Field Research in Africa: The Story Behind the Findings, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2004) Witness to Truth: Report of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Vol 3B. Available from: www.sierra-leone.org/Other-Conflict/TRCVolume3B.pdf [Accessed 15 December 2023].

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Utas, M. (2005) ‘Victimcy, girlfriending, soldiering: tactic agency in a young woman’s social navigation of the Liberian war zone’, Anthropological quarterly, 78(2): 403–30.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wibben, A.T.R. (ed) (2016) Researching War: Feminist Methods, Ethics and Politics, New York: Routledge.

  • Wood, E. (2006) ‘The ethical challenges of field research in conflict zones’, Qualitative Sociology, 29(3): 37386.

  • Yacob-Haliso, O. (2018) ‘Intersectionalities and access in fieldwork in post-conflict Liberia: motherland, motherhood, and minefields’, African Affairs, 118(470): 16881.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Content Metrics

May 2022 onwards Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 95 95 34
Full Text Views 0 0 0
PDF Downloads 0 0 0

Altmetrics