Volume 10 Issue 2 (2014): Giving Back in Field Research

Social Relations of Fieldwork: Giving Back in a Research Setting

Clare Gupta
Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
Alice Bridget Kelly
University of California, Berkeley
Published July 1, 2014
  • fieldwork,
  • giving back,
  • research ethics,
  • feminist standpoint theory,
  • participatory action research,
  • reflexive activism,
  • dynamic reciprocity
  • ...More


The project of this special issue emerged from the guest editors' experiences as field researchers in sub-Saharan Africa. During this time both researchers faced the difficult question of "giving back" to the communities in which, and with whom, they worked—communities that were often far less privileged than the researchers were in terms of wealth, mobility, education, and access to health care. Returning from their field sites, both researchers felt a combination of guilt and frustration that they had not done enough or had not done things right. Thus emerged the idea of bringing together a group of researchers, from a range of disciplines, to discuss the topic of giving back in field research. This editorial describes the idea and process that led to the present collection of articles. The guest editors situate the project in the literature on feminist studies and briefly summarize each of the four thematic sections in this special issue. They conclude by emphasizing that their collection is not a guide to giving back. Rather than lay out hard and fast rules about what, how much, and to whom field researchers should give, their collection offers a series of examples and considerations for giving back in fieldwork.