1st Edition

Secrecy and Methods in Security Research A Guide to Qualitative Fieldwork

    330 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    330 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    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.

    The Open Access version of this book, available at www.taylorfrancis.com, has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.

    Introduction: navigating secrecy in security research

    Esmé Bosma, Marieke de Goede and Polly Pallister-Wilkins


    Interlude: rigorous research in critical security studies

    Can E. Mutlu

    PART 1:Secrecy complexities

    Section I: Secrecy, silence and obfuscation


    1 The problem of access: site visits, selective disclosure, and freedom of information in qualitative security research

    Oliver Belcher and Lauren Martin


    2 The state is the secret: for a relational approach to the study of border and mobility control in Europe

    Huub Dijstelbloem and Annalisa Pelizza


    3 Postsecrecy and place: secrecy research amidst the ruins of an atomic weapons research facility

    William Walters and 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 and 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 M. 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 fieldworkon security

    Anthony Amicelle, Marie Badrudin and Samuel Tanner


    17 Material guides in ethically challenging fields: followingdeportation files

    Lieke Wissink




    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 and a member of project FOLLOW, funded by the European Research Council. For her research project she has conducted field research inside and around banks in Europe to analyse counter terrorism financing practices by financial institutions. She has taught qualitative research methods to political science students and holds a master's degree in Political Science from the University of Amsterdam.

    Polly Pallister-Wilkins is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, at the University of Amsterdam. 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.

    'The volume succeeds in giving insights into a variety of research methodologies and at the same time gives a kaleidoscopic insight into how secrecy shapes contemporary security practices, its technologies, and most importantly its politics. The volume will be of interest not only to scholars of security sites but it will hopefully attract attention outside the field. The short chapters and the description of various research project make it a great addition for any syllabus on research methods in IR.'--Linda Monsees, Security Dialogue