Studying Women's Human Rights Activism: Position of the Researcher and the Role of in-and Outsiders in the Field

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Maaret JOKELA-PANSINI, University of Bern, Switzerland
This paper investigates the position of the researcher in academic (women’s) human rights activism and is based on fieldwork conducted on women human rights defenders in Honduras. The country’s national elections in December 2013, which were regarded as the first democratic elections after the coup d’état in 2009, drew the attention of hundreds of human rights activists, journalists, bloggers, human rights observers as well as government representatives across the world. While conducting research in politically laden and polarized contexts – such as human rights activism in Honduras –researchers often find themselves between (and as part of) numerous actors, both insiders and outsiders. Drawing on feminist and social science theories and methodologies the study investigates the power relations between these actors, particularly outsiders, and the influence of such dynamics on the research project. The study shows that actors in the field hold different aspirations and assumptions about the research context as well as the strategies for advancing collective struggles, which can be challenging for the researcher. The study suggests that rather than working separately, actors of different communities (research, journalism, non-governmental and governmental organizations, etc.) should seek to create common strategies for advocacy work on all levels.