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Deception and the Powerful Research Subject: Uncovering Neo-Liberal Corruption in Post-War Iraq

By: Edited by: Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 1
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This case study examines a series of ethical dilemmas that emerged during a research project that explored the role of private companies in the occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion and during the subsequent reconstruction of the Iraqi economy. The study was based upon data derived from participant observation and interviews with key protagonists at a series of corporate conferences in the Middle East. Very early on in the research process, it became apparent that openness with research participants would have put the researcher in danger. Covert research techniques were therefore adopted as a mode of survival, as well as being a means to enhancing the data collection process. This case uses the researcher’s experiences to pose fundamental questions about how we think about and discuss deception in research generally, and how the ethical principles that we apply as professional researchers are not fit for purpose when it comes to researching relatively powerful participants. In order to move beyond the adoption of a “situational” approach to research ethics, this case will end by raising questions about how standards of research ethics might be positively repositioned to deal with the dilemmas raised here.

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