Secrecy and Methods in Security Research: A Guide to Qualitative Fieldwork, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Secrecy and Methods in Security Research

A Guide to Qualitative Fieldwork, 1st Edition

Edited by Marieke De Goede, Esmé Bosma, Polly Pallister-Wilkins


315 pages | 13 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780367027247
pub: 2019-08-28
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Hardback: 9780367027230
pub: 2019-08-28
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This book analyses the challenges of secrecy in security research, and develops a set of methods to navigate, encircle and work with secrecy.

How can researchers navigate secrecy in their fieldwork, when they encounter confidential material, closed-off quarters or bureaucratic rebuffs? This is a particular challenge for researchers in the security field, which is by nature secretive and difficult to access. This book creatively assesses and analyses the ways in which secrecies operate in security research. The collection sets out new understandings of secrecy, and shows how secrecy itself can be made productive to research analysis. It offers students, PhD researchers and senior scholars a rich toolkit of methods and best-practice examples for ethically appropriate ways of navigating secrecy. It pays attention to the balance between confidentiality, and academic freedom and integrity. The chapters draw on the rich qualitative fieldwork experiences of the contributors, who did research at a diversity of sites, for example at a former atomic weapons research facility, inside deportation units, in conflict zones, in everyday security landscapes, in virtual spaces, and at borders, bureaucracies and banks.

The book will be of interest to students of research methods, critical security studies and International Relations in general.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Navigating Secrecy in Security Research

Esmé Bosma, Marieke de Goede, Polly Pallister-Wilkins

Interlude: Rigorous Research in Critical Security Studies

Can Mutlu

Part I: Secrecy Complexities

Section I: Secrecy, Silence, Obfuscation

1. The Problem of Access: Site Visits, Selective Disclosure, and Freedom of Information in Qualitative Security Research

Oliver Belcher & Lauren Martin

2. The State is the Secret. For a Relational Approach to the Study of Border and Mobility Control in Europe, Huub

Dijstelbloem & Annalisa Pelizza

3. Postsecrecy and Place: Secrecy Research Amidst the Ruins of an Atomic Weapons Research Facility

William Walters & Alex Luscombe

Section II: Access, Confidentiality and Trust

4. Navigating Difficult Terrain

Alexandra Schwell

5. Accessing Lifeworlds: Getting People to Say the Unsayable

Jonathan Luke Austin

6. Research Dilemmas in Dangerous Places

Fairlie Chappuis & Jana Krause

Part 2: Mapping Secrecy

Section III: Reflexive Methodologies

7. Writing Secrecy

Brian Rappert

8. Gender, Ethics and Critique in Researching Security and Secrecy

Marijn Hoijtink

9. (In)visible Security Politics: Reflections on Photography and Everyday Security Landscapes

Jonna Nyman

Section IV: Ethnographies of Technologies

10. The Black Box and Its Dis/contents: Complications in Algorithmic Devices Research

Till Straube

11. Multi-Sited Ethnography of Digital Security Technologies

Esmé Bosma

12. Researching the Emergent Technologies of State Control: The Court-Martial of Chelsea Manning

Sarah Hughes and Philip Garnett

Part 3: Research Secrets

Section V: Critique and Advocacy

13. Searching for the Smoking Gun? Methodology and Modes of Critique in the Arms Trade

Anna Stavrianakis

14. Critical Engagement when Studying Those You Oppose

Erella Grassiani

15. Secrecy Vignettes

Marieke de Goede

Section VI: Research Ethics in Practice

16. Research Ethics at Work: Account-abilities in Fieldwork on Security

Anthony Amicelle, Marie Badrudin, and Samuel Tanner

17. Material Guides in Ethically Challenging Fields: Following Deportation Files

Lieke Wissink

About the Editors

Marieke de Goede is Professor of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. She is author of Speculative Security: the Politics of Pursuing Terrorist Monies and Associate Editor of Security Dialogue. She currently holds a Consolidator Grant of the European Research Council (ERC) called FOLLOW: Following the Money from Transaction to Trial.

Esmé Bosma is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Political Science of the University of Amsterdam. For her research project she has conducted field research inside and around banks in Europe to analyse counter terrorism financing practices by financial institutions. Her research lies at the intersection between (critical) security studies and science and technology studies. She has taught qualitative research methods to political science students and holds a Master degree in Political Science from the University of Amsterdam.

Polly Pallister-Wilkins is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Amsterdam. She works at the intersection of critical security studies and political geography researching the interrelations of mobility, border control and humanitarianism. Her work has been published in Security Dialogue, Political Geography and International Political Sociology amongst others. She is a principal investigator in the European Union Horizon 2020 project ‘ADMIGOV: Advancing Alternative Migration Governance’ looking at issues of humanitarian protection in wider systems of migration governance.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / International Security
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Intelligence
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Privacy & Surveillance (see also SOCIAL SCIENCE / Privacy & Surveillance)
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Methodology