Skip to main content

When Humans Become Data

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
The Companion to Peace and Conflict Fieldwork


In this chapter, I examine what and whom we imagine to be protecting when we use the language of ethics and transparency to describe research. How does the imagination of humans as data inform different approaches to transparency and ethics in research? I draw from my experiences in negotiating about data transparency with a funding agency to reflect on how different temporalities and spaces of research and violence alike inform interpretations of our responsibilities toward research interlocutors. The goal of the chapter is to synthesize recent research to advance an alternate orientation of transparency, away from a conceptualization informed by liability or “checkbox” compliance and toward a practice of reflexive openness.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or eBook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD 39.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 54.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. 1.

    All opinions in this article are my own and do not reflect the views of funding agencies or institutions that have supported my research.

  2. 2.

    ICPSR refers to the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. QDR is a Qualitative Data Repository, hosted by the Center for Qualitative and Multi-Method Inquiry at the Maxwell School, Syracuse University, USA. OSF refers to the Open Science Framework, maintained by the Center for Open Science.

  3. 3.

    LSS refers to the Law and Social Sciences Program in the Division of the Social and Economic Sciences of the NSF.

  4. 4.

    For a discussion of what makes certain research approaches feminist in the study of peace and conflict, see Wibben (2016), Sylvester (2013).

  5. 5.

    I acknowledge, of course, that financial support is not the only reason people apply for grants, particularly when grants themselves become part of assessment and prestige systems and hierarchies within academia.

  6. 6.

    I am grateful to Emma Shaw Crane for challenging me to think about this question through many different angles in my own research.


  • Amit, V. 2003. Introduction: Constructing the field. In Constructing the field, 9–26. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baines, E. 2017. Buried in the heart: Women, complex victimhood and the war in Northern Uganda. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bond, K.D. 2018. Reflexivity and revelation. Qualitative & Multi-Method Research 16 (1): 45–47.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bouka, Y. 2018. Collaborative research as structural violence. Political violence at a glance. http://politicalviolenceataglanceorg/2018/07/12/collaborative-research-as-structural-violence.

  • Brigden, N.K., and A.R. Gohdes. 2020. The politics of data access in studying violence across methodological boundaries: What we can learn from each other? International Studies Review.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, M.L. 2017. Never alone: (Re)Coding the comic holotrope of survivance. Transmotion 3 (1): 22–22.

    Google Scholar 

  • Callaci, E. 2019. On acknowledgments. The American Historical Review 125 (1): 126–131.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cronin-Furman, K., and M. Lake. 2018. Ethics abroad: Fieldwork in fragile and violent contexts. PS: Political Science & Politics 51 (3): 607–614.

  • Das, V. 2006. Life and words: Violence and the descent into the ordinary. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Duriesmith, D. 2019. Negative space and the feminist act of citation. In Rethinking silence, voice, and agency in contested gendered terrains. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eriksson Baaz, M., and M. Utas. 2019. Exploring the backstage: Methodological and ethical issues surrounding the role of research brokers in insecure zones. Civil Wars 21 (2): 157–178.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fassin, Didier. 2015. The public afterlife of ethnography. American Ethnologist 42 (4): 592–609.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fujii, L.A. 2012. Research ethics 101: Dilemmas and responsibilities. PS: Political Science & Politics 45 (4): 717–723.

  • Gupta, A., and J. Ferguson. 1997. Anthropological locations: Boundaries and grounds of a field science. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harrison, F.V. 1997. Decolonizing anthropology: Moving further toward an anthropology for liberation. American Anthropological Association. Available at: Accessed 4 November 2019.

  • Hoover Green, A., and D.K. Cohen. Forthcoming. Centering human subjects: The ethics of ‘Desk Research’ on political violence. Journal of Global Security Studies.

    Google Scholar 

  • Inayatullah, N., and E. Dauphinee. 2016. Narrative global politics: Theory, history and the personal in international relations. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y la Paz (Indepaz). 2019. Todos los Nombres, Todos los Rostros. May. Bogotá: Instituto de Estudios para el Desarollo y la Paz (Indepaz). Available at: Accessed 25 August 2019.

  • Kimmerer, R. 2013. Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants. Milkweed Editions.

    Google Scholar 

  • Knott, E. 2019. Beyond the field: Ethics after fieldwork in politically dynamic contexts. Perspectives on Politics 17 (1): 140–153.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Krystalli, R. 2018. Negotiating data management with the National Science Foundation: Transparency and ethics in research relationships. Memo. Available at:

  • Krystalli, R. 2019. Narrating violence: Feminist dilemmas and approaches. In Handbook on gender and violence, ed. Laura J. Shepherd. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Krystalli, R., and C. Enloe. 2020. Doing feminism: A conversation between Cynthia Enloe and Roxani Krystalli. International Feminist Journal of Politics 22 (2): 1–10.

    Google Scholar 

  • Larsen, S.C., and J.T. Johnson. 2016. The agency of place: Toward a more-than-human geographical self. GeoHumanities 2 (1): 149–166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lederach, A.J. 2017. “The campesino was born for the campo”: A multispecies approach to territorial peace in Colombia. American Anthropologist 119 (4): 589–602.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mac Ginty, R., O.T. Muldoon, and N. Ferguson. 2007. No war, no peace: Northern Ireland after the agreement. Political Psychology 28 (1): 1–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maddison, S., and L.J. Shepherd. 2014. Peacebuilding and the postcolonial politics of transitional justice. Peacebuilding 2 (3): 253–269.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Malejacq, R., and D. Mukhopadhyay. 2016. The ‘tribal politics’ of field research: A reflection on power and partiality in 21st-Century Warzones. Perspectives on Politics 14 (4): 1011–1028.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Merry, S.E. 2016. The seductions of quantification: Measuring human rights, gender violence, and sex trafficking. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Middleton, T., and E. Pradhan. 2014. Dynamic duos: On partnership and the possibilities of postcolonial ethnography. Ethnography 15 (3): 355–374.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ní Aoláin, F. 2009. Exploring a feminist theory of harm in the context of conflicted and post-conflict societies emerging paradigms of rationality. Queen’s Law Journal 1: 219–244.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nixon, R. 2011. Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pachirat, T. 2015. The tyranny of light. Qualitative and Multi-Method Research: Newsletter of the American Political Science Association’s QMMR Section 13 (1): 27–31.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parashar, S. 2019a. Ordinary lives and the certitudes of violence: Rethinking accountability and justice. Keynote Lecture. Conference on Gender Studies: On Violence, Helsinki, Finland.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parashar, S. 2019b. Research brokers, researcher identities and affective performances: The insider/outsider conundrum. Civil Wars 21 (2): 249–270.

  • Parkinson, S.E., and E.J. Wood. 2015. Transparency in intensive research on violence: Ethical dilemmas and unforeseen consequences. Qualitative & Multi-Method Research 13 (1): 22–27.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parpart, J.L., and S. Parashar, eds. 2019. Rethinking silence, voice and agency in contested gendered terrains: Beyond the binary. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pascoe, B. 2007. Convincing ground: Learning to fall in love with your country. Canberra: Aboriginal studies press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Price, D.H. 2011. Weaponizing anthropology: Social science in service of the militarized state. Oakland, CA: AK Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reddy, D. 2009. Caught! The predicaments of ethnography in collaboration. Fieldwork is not what it used to be: Learning anthropology’s method in a time of transition, 89–112. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shepherd, L.J. 2016. Research as gendered intervention: Feminist research ethics and the self in the research encounter. Critica Contemporánea. Rev. de Teoría Política (6): 1–15.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sylvester, C. 2013. War as experience: Contributions from international relations and feminist analysis. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thaler, K.M. 2019. Reflexivity and temporality in researching violent settings: Problems with the replicability and transparency regime. Geopolitics 0 (0): 1–27.

  • Tripp, A.M. 2018. Transparency and integrity in conducting field research on politics in challenging contexts. Perspectives on Politics 16 (3): 728–738.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wedeen, L. 2013. Ethnography as interpretive enterprise. Political ethnography: What immersion contributes to the study of power, 75–94. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wibben, A.T. 2010. Feminist security studies: A narrative approach. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wibben, A.T.R. 2016. Researching war: Feminist methods. Ethics and Politics: Routledge.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Wood, E.J. 2006. The ethical challenges of field research in conflict zones. Qualitative Sociology 29 (3): 373–386.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yanow, D., and P. Schwartz-Shea. 2015. Interpretation and method: Empirical research methods and the interpretive turn. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zalewski, M. 2006. Distracted reflections on the production, narration, and refusal of feminist knowledge in international relations. In Feminist methodologies for international relations, 42–61. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Roxani Krystalli .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2021 The Author(s)

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Krystalli, R. (2021). When Humans Become Data. In: Mac Ginty, R., Brett, R., Vogel, B. (eds) The Companion to Peace and Conflict Fieldwork. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics