Panel discussion

GIGA Round Table on Future Challenges to Authoritarianism Research

On 18 May the GIGA hosted a public round table entitled “Future Challenges to Authoritarianism Research.” The panellists included Heike Holbig, senior research fellow at the GIGA Institute of Asian Studies and professor at Goethe University Frankfurt/Main; Ilyas Saliba, human rights defender and advocacy officer at the Middle East desk of Amnesty International in Germany; and Adele del Sordi, postdoctoral research fellow at the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies at LMU Munich. The round table was moderated by André Bank, senior research fellow at the GIGA Institute of Middle East Studies and speaker of the IDCAR network.

Listen to the full discussion here

Heike Holbig discussed the changes in the research environment in China, drawing on her substantial experience of more than 30 years of conducting field research in the country. Adele del Sordi introduced the main arguments and recommendations of the recently published open-source book ‘Research, Ethics, and Risk in the Authoritarian Field’, which she co-authored with colleagues from the University of Amsterdam’s research project “Authoritarianism in the Global Age.” Last but not least, Ilyas Saliba presented the “SAFEResearch” initiative, a peer-to-peer network for fieldwork-based research, and talked about his own research experiences in Egypt and Morocco.

The panelists and participants engaged in a lively exchange on their personal experiences and strategies in dealing with the often challenging authoritarian research environments. This discussion included the development of ethical procedures, safety protocols, data protection and confidentiality issues, and ways of coping with stress and avoiding mental health problems. The participants also discussed suggestions for improving the training and preparation of researchers at the postdoctoral, doctoral, and master’s levels. The roundtable concluded with the positive and encouraging aspects of authoritarian field research, which highlight how, despite many difficulties, the results of this work can be personally and academically enriching. In the end, such research contributes greatly to our knowledge about those political regimes in which the majority of people around the world live today.