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The art and politics of covert research: doing `situated ethics' in the field

Calvey, David (2008) The art and politics of covert research: doing `situated ethics' in the field. Sociology, 42 (5). pp. 905-18. ISSN 1469-8684 (Unpublished)

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Abstract

This article discusses the covert research relationship. Specifically, it explores the ethical dimensions of fieldwork with reference to a six-month covert ethnography of `bouncers', in Manchester. Drawing from sociological literatures, the article wishes to raise for scrutiny the management of situated ethics in covert fieldwork which, despite having some increased recognition via debates about risk and danger in fieldwork, remains glossed over. The standard discourse on ethics is abstracted from the actual doing, which is a mediated and contingent set of practices. Traditionally, professional ethics has been centralized around the doctrine of informed consent with covert methodology being frowned upon and effectively marginalized as a type of `last resort methodology'.What I highlight here is the case for covert research in the face of much conventional opposition. I hope the article will open debate and dialogue about its potential role and possible creative future in the social science community.

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