1st Edition

The Cost of Bearing Witness Secondary Trauma and Self-Care in Fieldwork-Based Social Research

Edited By Nena Močnik, Ahmad Ali Ghouri Copyright 2024

    This highly interdisciplinary volume fills the gap in research ethics that has so far omitted to address the psychological, physiological, and socio-political impacts on researchers conducting field-based social research in traumatic environments.

    The chapters in this book discuss various facets of secondary trauma from different methodological and theoretical perspectives, geographic, and historical contexts, and address a wide range of questions spanning from recent complex topics to semi-historical events and future concerns causing traumatic anxiety. While most chapters explore the process of healing and recovery from traumatic experiences during fieldwork-based research, few chapters also propose constructive approaches for developing personal and institutional methodologies and techniques to better prepare researchers to cope with secondary trauma.

    The book offers useful insights and concrete changes in research methodologies that can help minimize the risk of trauma and new approaches to preventing and handling the consequences of conducting field-based social research in traumatic environments. It was originally published as a special issue of Social Epistemology.

    Introduction: Re-Thinking Exposure to Trauma and Self-Care in Fieldwork-Based Social Research

    Nena Močnik

    1. Why Fit in When You Were Born to Stand Out? The Role of Peer Support in Preventing and Mitigating Research-Related Stress among Doctoral Researchers

    Muhammad Sufyan and Ahmad Ali Ghouri

    2. Dialogical Research Design: Practising Ethical, Useful and Safe(r) Research

    Birgit Poopuu

    3. Gendered Embodiment of the Ethnographer during Fieldwork in a Conflict Region of India

    Shruti Mukherjee

    4. Going to Work ‘High’: Negotiating Boundaries while Doing Ethnography of Drugs

    Prasenjeet Tribhuvan

    5. Bearing Witness to Suffering: A Reflection on the Personal Impact of Conducting Research with Children and Grandchildren of Victims of Apartheid-era Gross Human Rights Violations in South Africa

    Cyril K. Adonis

    6. ‘I Was Close to Them’: Re-experiencing War through Trauma-based Interviews

    Alma Jeftić

    7. The Cost of Bearing Witness to the Environmental Crisis: Vicarious Traumatization and Dealing with Secondary Traumatic Stress among Environmental Researchers

    Panu Pihkala


    Nena Močnik received her PhD at University of Ljubljana (Slovenia) and is currently Maria Skłodowska Curie EUTOPIA (Science and Innovation) Fellow at GRITIM - UPF Barcelona and CYU Paris. She is the author of two monographs, Trauma Transmission and Sexual Violence: Reconciliation and Peacebuilding in Post-Conflict Settings (2021), and Sexuality after War Rape: From Narrative to Embodied Research (2017). Her research interest covers collective traumas, identity-based violence and non-medical trauma rehabilitation.

    Ahmad Ali Ghouri’s research is interdisciplinary and focussed on critical and comparative approaches to international law and transnational discourses on Islamic law. These two apparently divergent fields find metalevel convergence in his enquiries about the Islamic state practices in international law and accommodation and interpretation of Islamic law and practices by secular states. The broader issues addressed in his research come down to transnational identities and practices reflected in public and private governance having economic as well as broader societal implications.