[URBANTH-L]a question concerning methods/ethics

Lawless, Robert robert.lawless at wichita.edu
Thu Jul 30 11:01:22 EDT 2009

I should added to my hastily written response (that included the statement "The informant may not realize what use could be made of the published item") that anthropologists themselves do not realize what use could be made of these studies, as is well documented in the cases of the U.S. military's use of anthropological information. 

-----Original Message-----
From: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu [mailto:urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu] On Behalf Of Brian L Adams-Thies
Sent: Thursday, July 30, 2009 6:35 AM
To: Bascom Guffin; URBANTH-L at lists.ysu.edu
Subject: Re: [URBANTH-L]a question concerning methods/ethics

Just to play devil´s advocate......I am a bit concerned that the notion that 
informants don´t understand how or in what manner their information will be 
used is in itself highly problematic.    Informants are just as capable of 
understanding the repercussions of their participation as we, the 
anthropologists, are.    Assuming that informants are somehow less imbued 
with the logical capacity of understanding their decision smacks of 
colonialism/power/domination.   In this world we live in I think it very 
difficult to assume we, as anthropologists, are privvy to possible outcomes 
to which our informants remain oblivious.

With that said, I think what everyone who has responded so far is indicating 
is that this decision is contextual.    We should be explaining the risks of 
using real names and engage in an extended conversation with informants 
about this decision.   If, after that conversation, an informant demands 
that their name be used then I don´t see how we can ethically anonymize 

These thoughts are also off the top of my head and I am sure there are 
people much more qualified to speak to the issue.

All my best,

Brian L. Adams-Thies, PhD
Assistant Professor - Anthropology
Department for the Study of Culture and Society
Drake University
Des Moines, IA
Email: Brian.Adams-Thies at drake.edu
Phone: 515.271.2936
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bascom Guffin" <mbguffin at ucdavis.edu>
To: <URBANTH-L at lists.ysu.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 11:09 PM
Subject: Re: [URBANTH-L]a question concerning methods/ethics

>I would say that in the case of B (she/he doesn't care), I would still 
>anonymize the informant. If they specifically ask that their names be 
>mentioned, it becomes a tougher call. I know of one person who had DJs  as 
>informants, and many of them asked that their real names (at least  their 
>real DJ names) be used, because they saw it as an opportunity  for 
>publicity. In this case, you might consider using their real names  to be a 
>sort of reciprocation for the time and effort they've put in  to helping 
>you out. But this researcher still ended up anonymizing  their sources, 
>because informants made statements that the researcher  determined could be 
>controversial. There may have been other aspects  to the researcher's 
>reasoning as well. If the informants are public  figures, other 
>considerations might also apply, in that there may be  good reason to use 
>their real names, especially if it is overly  difficult to hide their 
>identities. All this is off the top of my  head, and I am sure there are 
>other members of the list who have given  this much deeper thought, and 
>been directly faced with these practical  considerations. I too would be 
>interested to hear what folks have to  say.
> Best,
> Bascom
> ----------------
> Bascom Guffin | PhD Candidate
> Department of Anthropology
> University of California, Davis
> mbguffin at ucdavis.edu
> On Jul 24, 2009, at 9:41 AM, Fethi Keles wrote:
>> 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
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