Publications

Studying insecurity from relative safety — Dealing with methodological blind spots

Vries, Lotje de; Glawion, Tim

Summary

Qualitative empirical enquiries into dynamics of security and insecurity often include a blind spot that bear theoretical ramifications because only those areas and respondents that allow for relatively safe fieldwork are studied. To transparently articulate the spheres of projection that creep into our knowledge production, we propose a distinction between inner and outer circles as highly fluid but separate geographical, socio-political and methodological spaces. Drawing on fieldwork in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, we discuss the risks posed by incomplete data and subsequently flawed inferences. We argue that the perceptions of fear projected onto the outer circle shape people’s behaviour more than measurable insecurity incidents and that increased interaction between actors in both circles reduces the perceived threats coming from the outer circles. We demonstrate how studying insecurity from inner circles risks securitizing outer circles while further centralizing the inner ones. We thus urge transparency in data collection and the related inferences that underpin our knowledge production.