“She's a Spy!” - Trust/Mistrust Relations in Social Movement Research

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Nora ATEIA, SFB 923, Universität Tübingen, Germany
Courtney DORROLL, Wofford College, USA
Katharina WINKLER, Ludwig-Uhland-Institut, Universität Tübingen, Germany
Much has been written about the importance of integrating emotions in the study of social movements over the past 20 years. Even more has been written about methodological approaches regarding researcher–subject relations during fieldwork. But largely missing is a critical discussion of emotions triggered by the challenges, risks and practicability regarding fieldwork in the politically sensitive environment of protests. By addressing the content of such a discussion in our paper, two aspects particularly come into focus: the role of feelings related to trust and mistrust – which are mobilized through the situation of „being researched“ – and researching under challenging conditions. Researchers collecting empirical data in various protest events that have taken place around the globe within the past four years have faced crucial challenges in establishing trust in the field, on the one hand, and evaluating the potential risk and working on mistrust issues on the other hand. This paper is based on three qualitative research projects in the field of protest movements in Egypt´s Tahrir Square, Turkey´s Gezi Park developments and the aftermath of Germany´s Stuttgart 21 protests. All three researchers have faced mistrust as well as the challenge of risk evaluation and management in the field. The researcher´s confrontation with mistrust in the field makes it clear how dominant trust/mistrust relations are in politically sensitive fields. Therefore, a close look at different dynamics and dimensions of trust and mistrust is worthwhile, not only regarding researcher-subject relations, but also regarding where and in which ways these emotions are negotiated and to whom or to what they relate to.