[URBANTH-L]RE: a question concerning methods/ethics

David Levinger dlevinger at gmail.com
Thu Jul 30 09:07:55 EDT 2009

Here is another devil's advocate position.  When I reflect upon my own work,
I can see that it has *served me* to anonymize the source for three key

   1. It strengthens my ability to generalize from the specific.
   2. In doing so, I prevent access to my informants--making me an
   obligatory point of reference for the study and precluding anyone from
   getting to the source of the material without going through me.
   3. My narrative obtains a paternalistic authority via the very act of

Actually, the informants in my work are frequently identifiable and not
protected by IRB policy.  I do my work in the public realm of transportation
systems where the informants are frequently public servants.  I offer them
the right to have their accounts remain anonymous, but because of this
conversation, I am reconsidering that stance.

Fethi, thank you for a great discussion!


-----Original Message-----
> From: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu [mailto:
> urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu] On Behalf Of Fethi Keles
> Sent: Friday, July 24, 2009 11:41 AM
> To: URBANTH-L at lists.ysu.edu
> Subject: [URBANTH-L]a question concerning methods/ethics
> Friends,
> I would like to receive opinions on the following issue, if possible.
> What most everyone does when we write things up is to change names and use
> pseudonyms etc. etc. But, what do you do if an informant a) specifically
> asks to be identified with his/her actual name in your study (book, article
> whatever) b) says s/he doesn't care/wouldn't mind if you were to use his/her
> actual name?
> I feel the answer to this must be more than 'well go ahead and do as s/he
> says', for there could be a whole lot of other implications if one does so.
> Any readings you would suggest? What courses of action would be on the table
> in the two cases above?
> Any thoughts will be appreciated. Thank you.
> Fethi Keles
> PhD Candidate in Cultural Anthropology
> Maxwell School

David Levinger |  206-390-8118

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