This article explores ethical issues of co-mingled data, demarcating the field and informed consent in a study researching the consequences of Christian fundamentalist ideology on the lives of “Bible Belt gays”. When what constitutes informed consent is ambiguous, how does the qualitative researcher justify her decision either to include or exclude meaningful data? To illustrate these ethical issues, I analyze four instances of co-mingled data, two featuring Christian fundamentalists and two Bible Belt gays, in which I gain theoretical insights under conditions of blurry consent, and weigh potential harm to subjects against the liberatory goals of the project.
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I would like to extend a special thanks to Kathleen M. Blee and Ashley Currier for their thoughtful feedback on several drafts of this manuscript, as well as inviting me to participate in this special issue and the accompanying conference. Thanks also to Samuel Faulkner, Philip Krummrich, Anna Blanton, Constance L. Hardesty, Linda Morrison, Kelsy Burke, Amy McDowell and all the presenters and participants at the October 2010 “Beyond the IRB: New Frontiers in the Ethics of Qualitative Research” conference held at the University of Pittsburgh.
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Barton, B. My Auto/Ethnographic Dilemma: Who Owns the Story?. Qual Sociol 34, 431 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-011-9197-x