(Un)limited Possibilities: A Workshop on Gendered Safety and Positionality During Fieldwork

Workshop on safer fieldwork

On August 22 and 23, the gender board organised the first workshop in the second phase: “(Un)Limited Possibilities? A workshop on gendered safety and positionality during fieldwork” with Tamara Gupper, Kira Kreft and Laura Thurmann, who together form the Safer Fieldwork Project.

In the workshop, twelve PhD students and postdocs gathered to talk about physical and emotional risks that might occur during fieldwork, different tools for reflection, as well as the impact of our own intersecting positionalities and vulnerabilities. There was much time for reflection and working in groups, which allowed a deeper engagement with those subjects.

On the first day of the workshop, which was open for all genders, we brainstormed on potential risks, potential vulnerabilities and the resources that are available for us to prepare for these risks. The speakers introduced a four-step risk analysis as a tool for positionality-based risk assessment, including the reflection on room for action. After having practiced to use this tool with some examples, we turned to trust-based and gendered risks and the importance of safety networks during fieldwork.

On the second day, gender-based risks that may arise during fieldwork were discussed in more detail. This day was organized for female researchers only, in order to provide a safe space for discussions concerning individual positionalities in different fieldsites. In groups of two, safety aspects such as accommodation or the female body were considered. Important questions addressed expectations, that might be placed on female researchers, and the ways in which one can learn about norms and values in the respective research location. In the afternoon, concerns and strategies for risk reductions were exchanged in a broader panel.

During the two-day workshop, we learned how to reflect on our own positionality, to prepare for possible risks, and most importantly, to take concerns about our physical and emotional safety serious. The three speakers opened a wide field of potential risks but also stressed our competencies and resources to deal with them. They created a comfortable atmosphere where we could share our own experiences and personal stories, which made the workshop an inspiring and supporting event.

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