Dancing with danger: ethnographic safety, male bravado and gang research in Colombia

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Abstract

This article considers the dilemmas and challenges of conducting fieldwork with youth gang members in Medellín, Colombia. It draws upon the author’s experiences to develop the notion of ‘ethnographic safety’, where researchers learn to perceive and avert danger by gaining a ‘feel for the rules of the game’ (Bourdieu, 1992) in violent communities; it problematizes the role that the researcher’s gender and ‘male bravado’ played in accessing and interviewing gang members; considers the ethical conundrums of building rapport with criminal subjects; and discusses the challenges of working in complex, chronically violent communities where there are no simple dichotomies between victims and perpetrators of violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-360
JournalQualitative Research
Volume18
Issue number3
Early online date4 Aug 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

Keywords

  • Dangerous research, researcher safety, ethnography, gangs, Medellín, research ethics, masculinities, Bourdieu

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