William Maley

Research as an Outsider: Positionality, Ethics, and Risk

Cover page

Outsiders—or “foreigners”—who study violent extremism in affected countries can have multiple identities as students of violent extremism, as students of the countries in question, and as “foreigners” to the contexts they study. They often have long-standing personal relationships with local community members and in some cases they have spent more time living in the countries they study than in their countries of nationality. Yet they inhabit an ambiguous space, being “insiders” in the eyes of some, and “outsiders” in the eyes of others. This ambiguity gives rise to both practical and ethical challenges in undertaking fieldwork. The following reflections draw on the author’s own experiences to illustrate some of the complexities associated with positionality, ethics, and risk as well as important considerations that all researchers should take into account when undertaking fieldwork in a country other than their own.


Suggested citation: 

Maley, William. Research as an Outsider: Positionality, Ethics, and Risk. Washington, D.C.: RESOLVE Network, 2021. https://doi.org/10.37805/rve2021.7