Lotje De Vries / Tim Glawion

Studying Insecurity from Relative Safety — Dealing with Methodological Blind Spots

Qualitative Research | 2021

  • Abstract

    Qualitative empirical enquiries into dynamics of security and insecurity often include a blind spot that bear theoretical ramifications because only those areas and respondents that allow for relatively safe fieldwork are studied. To transparently articulate the spheres of projection that creep into our knowledge production, we propose a distinction between inner and outer circles as highly fluid but separate geographical, socio-political and methodological spaces. Drawing on fieldwork in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, we discuss the risks posed by incomplete data and subsequently flawed inferences. We argue that the perceptions of fear projected onto the outer circle shape people’s behaviour more than measurable insecurity incidents and that increased interaction between actors in both circles reduces the perceived threats coming from the outer circles. We demonstrate how studying insecurity from inner circles risks securitizing outer circles while further centralizing the inner ones. We thus urge transparency in data collection and the related inferences that underpin our knowledge production.


    Qualitative Research

    Dr. Lotje De Vries

    Peacebuilding | 05.2022

    Cross-Case Patterns of Security Production in Hybrid Political Orders: their Shapes, Ordering Practices, and Paradoxical Outcomes

    Studying 12 cases across the Central African Republic, Haiti, Somaliland, and South Sudan, I investigate (1) where hybrid interactions take place, (2) how they happen and (3) what this means for people’s security.

    Dr. Tim Glawion

    Research Fellow


    GIGA Session on comparing cases through qualitative fieldwork


    Examinations of substate politics are mostly limited to single-case studies or statistical analyses. Seldom are qualitative methods applied with a comparative aim in mind that can unveil patterns of political ordering on the local level. In this GIGA session we discuss how to gather comparable data across field sites and how to compare them analytically. The lecturer will provide examples from his comparative studies on local security arenas in the Central African Republic, Lebanon, Somaliland, South Sudan, and Haiti. Students are encouraged to share their own experiences and plans during class.

    Forschungsprojekt | 15.01.2020 - 14.01.2023

    The Monopoly on the Use of Force and Paradoxes of Security – Discrepancies between Objective and Subjective Security in the Central African Republic and Lebanon

    Reinstating the state monopoly on the legitimate use of force continues to be the key strategy used to pacify conflict zones and rebuild so-called ‘fragile states’. At the same time, the empirically measurable effects of state armed forces extending their reach throughout their country on people’s security are at best ambivalent. This project investigates the often paradoxical relationship between the processes of security production in the local security arena and inhabitants’ perceptions of their own security.
    DFG, 2020-2023

    Prof. Dr. Andreas Mehler

    Dr. Lotje De Vries

    Tamirace Fakhoury

    Dr. Tobias Hagmann


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