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.

    Research Programmes


    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

    Monograph | Cambridge University Press | 2020

    The Security Arena in Africa: Local Order-Making in the Central African Republic, Somaliland, and South Sudan

    The labels 'state fragility' and 'civil war' suggest that security within several African countries has broken down. As Tim Glawion observes, however, while people do experience insecurity in some parts of conflict-affected countries, in other areas they live in relative security.

    Dr. Tim Glawion

    Research Fellow


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