Conducting fieldwork in the Middle East

Conducting fieldwork in the Middle East

Factors affecting the conduct of research in the Middle East

Conducting research in the Middle East can be hampered by the assumptions and expectations of researchers and participants as well as external factors such as political circumstances and censorship. This report looks at the conclusions of a workshop conducted with researchers from a number of different disciplines in politics, anthropology and culture. The workshop also looked at country-specific experiences of working in Iran, Iraq, Palestine/Israel and Syria.

Primary conclusions over good practice for research include: 

  • build and maintain a network of contacts both before and after arrival in the field in order to gain access to information and institutions 
  • awareness of gift exchanges and the expectation of a return favour where access has been specially granted 
  • awareness that research in the field may produce its own concepts which may not fit into existing theoretical frameworks, especially where these are formulated from a ‘Western’ perspective 
  • awareness of power relationships and the participants’ perception of the research and the researcher, which could be viewed with suspicion or could be seen to be legitimising the subject of research 
  • researchers are themselves not bank slates and should bear this in mind