Project: Innovative Methodologies and Methodological Innovation

International studies scholarship has benefitted from insights from anthropology, peace and conflict studies, geography, and other disciplines to craft a thoughtful set of reflections and considerations for researchers to take with them “into the field” when they embark on “fieldwork.” In this essay, we map out a history of critical approaches to fieldwork, starting with the encounters that initially encouraged reflection on the positionality of the researcher and the power dynamics of research.

Building on decolonial feminist scholarship, we show how a commitment to reflexive practice “in the field” has developed further, through a reflection on the self as a researcher and on “the field” as a construct. This ethical and political commitment prompts a rethinking of key concepts in fieldwork (and research more generally), including those of “the researcher,” “the research participant” (or “population”), “expertise,” and what constitutes “data” and “knowledge.”

We argue that a preferable approach to critical fieldwork is grounded in feminist and decolonial, anti-racist, anti-capitalist politics. This approach is committed not just to reflecting critically on “the field” and the interactions of the researcher within it but also to challenging the divisions, exclusions, and structures of oppression that sustain the separations between “here” and “there,” “researcher” and “researched,” and “knower” and “known.”