Assistants, guides, collaborators, friends: The concealed figures of conflict research

Sarah Ann Jenkins

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29 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


Recent scholarship has demonstrated an increasing awareness of the need for more grounded, empirical research into the micro-level dynamics of violent contexts. Research in these difficult, dangerous, and potentially violent conflict or post-conflict settings necessitates the formation of new relationships of dependency, and assistants, friends, collaborators, and guides become central figures in the field. However, all too often, these figures are written out of academic accounts and silenced in our analyses. This not only does them a significant disservice, but it also obscures potential biases, complexities, and ethical dilemmas that emerge in the way in which such research is carried out. Drawing upon fieldwork exploring the 2007–2008 Kenyan postelection violence, this paper argues that reliance upon insider-assistants is essential in conflict settings and explores the challenges inherent in these relationships. As researchers become increasingly engaged in micro-level studies of violent contexts, we must interrogate the realities of how our knowledge has been produced and engage in more open and honest discussions of the methodological and ethical challenges of conflict research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-170
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Contemporary Ethnography
Issue number2
Early online date18 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • conflict research
  • ethnography
  • Kenya

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