Power Negotiations in the Field: Ethical and Practical Challenges of Field Research on Party Politics in Hybrid Regime Settings

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This article reflects upon the author’s long fieldwork experience on party politics in the hybrid political regime of Turkey. It illustrates the ethical and practical challenges that the political context poses for research and elaborates on two interrelated issues. Firstly, the observations and findings that researchers may obtain and present in such a polarised and semi-authoritarian setting can be remarkably different from the expectations of the research participants. This poses a challenge to the principles of not doing harm and of informed consent, and requires researchers to negotiate these principles in order to convey meaningful research outcomes while being uncompromising with respect to the principle of anonymity/confidentiality. The other dilemma is that, in settings where politics imposes itself on bureaucratic and legal institutions as well as on the economy, researchers may find themselves in extremely vulnerable positions before powerful research participants. To what extent should the researcher tolerate being treated badly and how should the researcher deal with such contexts? In this article, the author proposes that Max Weber’s recommendation in his article “Science as Vocation” – to avoid extremely politicised positions – still remains relevant in ethical and practical respects.


Research ethics, field research, hybrid regimes, authoritarianism, party politics, clientilism, Turkey