Nelson, I.L. 2013. The Allure of Privileging Danger over Everyday Practice in Field Research.

Nelson, Ingrid L. 2013. “The Allure and Privileging of Danger over Everyday Practice in Field Research.” Area 45(4): 419-425.

  • By privileging “danger” or sensationalized phenomena in our research, we encounter the possibility of missing out on other underpinning phenomena/relationships/dynamics that may be critical to understanding an issue as a whole.


“focusing on dangerous issues within closed contexts prioritises activities (e.g. protecting sensitive research data about illicit logging), can in fact divert our attention away from our own embodied researchpractices and the crucial, yet less exciting, details that shape these sites. Certain mundane embodied practices that are often ignored in favour of more exciting and dangerous material, actually produce particular unanticipated research outcomes that shape relationships between local actors, rural development extensionists, loggers and environmentalists” (421)

~ Researcher focus on ensuring physical safety/effective social safety (rapport?), limited range of data collection, and scope of research/analysis — external issues impacted the ways that researcher goes about collecting, interpreting, communicating aspects of data

* Research field/process impacts researcher positionality (location/identities), perceptions of vulnerability, and daily embodied practices/interactions (Stacey 1988; Visweswaran 1994; Wolf 1996; Madison 2005) — (kx^ and vice versa?)

– Call for scholars’ reflexive consideration of emotion, etc. within research (Davidson et al 2005; Thien 2005; Smith et al 2009) – but how many researchers admit/are event aware of (allure of danger — kx^ emotional draw/impacts of field and subject matter)?

  • Bodily comportment and research site locations may produce ethical and methodological challenges.


  • Staying in “acceptable” or approved locations, residences – limiting personal autonomy/exploration as sacrificed to cultural norms or threats to social/physical self
  • The nature of field sites are guided by power dimensions — as researchers, we too are impacted by/experience these echoes.


Davidson, J., L. Bondi, and M. Smith. 2005. Emotional Geographies. Aldershot (INFO): Ashgate.

Madison, D. 2005. Critical Ethnography: Method, Ethics, and Performance. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Smith, M., J. Davidson, L. Cameron, and L. Bondi.  2009. Emotion, Place and Culture. Aldershot (INFO): Ashgate.

Stacey, J. 1988. “Can There Be a Feminist Ethnography?” Women’s Studies International Forum 11(X): 21-27.

Thien, D. 2005. “After or Beyond Feeling? A Consideration of Affect and Emotion in Geography.” Area 37(X): 450-456.

Visweswaran, K. 1994. Fictions of Feminist Ethnography. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Wolf, D.L. (editor). 1996. Feminist Dilemmas in Fieldwork. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.


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