A Delicate Balancing Act: Negotiating with Gatekeepers for Ethical Research When Researching Minority Communities

Ruth McAreavey, Chaitali Das

Abstract


Research and processes of knowledge production are often based on racialised and imperialistic frameworks that have led to either the exclusion or the pathologisation of minority groups. Researchers address issues of exclusion by adopting recruitment strategies that involve negotiating with gatekeepers to ensure the inclusion of minority or marginalised groups. This often involves in-depth scrutiny of gatekeepers and requires the researchers to negotiate deals and to make personal disclosures. However, there remains relatively little discussion on the pragmatic ethical issues facing researchers in the field as a result of these interactions. This article suggests that interactions with gatekeepers present ethical issues that can be effectively addressed and managed by researchers through the exercise of phronesis. Phronesis allows researchers to make critical ethical decisions based on the specific characteristics of the research sites and subjects, not least of which are those issues that emerge as a consequence of researcher positionality. Such decisions are not necessarily identified or accommodated through bureaucratic processes which govern research ethics. We advance the notion of research ethics as an ongoing process that requires researcher skills and engagement, rather than a one-off bureaucratic exercise.

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