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AAS Roundtable "Ethics in Social Research on/in Asia"

Mar 17, 2023 | 09:00 AM - 10:30 AM


9:00 - 10:30 AM EST


Hynes Convention Center - Meeting Room 103 (Plaza Level)

About the roundtable

Researchers conducting empirical studies in Asia are often confronted with ethical challenges or dilemmas. This is especially the case in authoritarian settings, but not exclusively so. Applying ethical standards developed in biomedical research (e.g. procedures ensuring “informed consent” and submitting research plans to ethics committees or institutional review boards) does not absolve the researcher from thinking hard about how to “do no harm” to participants and partners and potentially even contribute to positive change. At the same time, recent geopolitical tensions require scholars to rethink their positionality in global debates on collaborations in or with authoritarian states. This roundtable session brings together scholars studying different parts of Asia from a variety of disciplinary perspectives to discuss these issues and move the debate on responsible engagement with the region forward.

Björn Alpermann proposes that empirical research within China should continue despite the hard authoritarian turn the country has taken, but where the much-vaunted “red lines” run, needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis and may also shift over time. Drawing on her fieldwork experiences in Kyrgyzstan, Aksana Ismailbekova reflects on her positionality as a researcher working for an international institution in her country of origin and the entanglements of different obligations inherent in such a situation. Elizabeth Roads contributes her experiences from her long-time research on human rights in Myanmar, a country that has seen a particularly drastic deterioration in its political environment over recent years. Samita Sen’s contribution highlights the fact that even in democratic states like India conditions for research can be detrimentally affected by political trends, especially when focused on fields like gender and labor. While less problematized and often overlooked, the case of Laos, presented by Oliver Tappe, poses similar dilemmas as authoritarian politics meet social research on questions of ethnicity and labor relations.


Björn Alpermann, University of Wuerzburg

Nicholas Loubere, Lund University


Nicholas Loubere, Lund University


Björn Alpermann, University of Wuerzburg

Aksana Ismailbekova, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient

Elizabeth Rhoads, Lund University

Samita Sen, Cambridge University

Oliver Tappe, University of Heidelberg