Ethical Reflexivity in Research on Forced Migration—Lessons Learned From a Sociological Study With Student Researchers

Hella von Unger

Abstract


The situation of refugees is characterized by legal, economic and social vulnerabilities that generate particular challenges with regard to research ethics. The limited rights, precarious living conditions and high level of dependency in social interactions call into question some of the key principles of research ethics, such as voluntary participation, and hamper their realization in practice. A lively debate of ethical conduct in research with refugees has evolved internationally. Some scholars call for a "dual imperative" of research in this field: research on forced migration should not only strive to meet the highest scientific standards, but also aim at making a contribution towards improving the situation of refugees and developing policies to alleviate their suffering. In this article, I discuss ethical questions of forced migration research using the example of a student research project with young refugees and their perspectives on education and work in Munich, Germany. The project was framed by political and legal discourses that impacted the research situation in a multiplicity of ways. I show how we practiced ethical reflexivity, and with what results, not only while in the field, but also during data analysis and dissemination. I propose taking into account the possibilities and limits of using participatory approaches in research on forced migration.


Keywords


anonymization; avoiding harm; dual imperative; forced migration; informed consent; participatory research; refugees; research ethics; voluntary participation



DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-19.3.3151

Copyright (c) 2018 Hella von Unger

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