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

Stella Nyanzi snyanzi at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 30 08:37:51 EDT 2009

Hi Fethi,
I have experienced option a) where respondents insist that I use their names in two different research studies. In the first instance I was working around issues of disclosure of HIV positive status. And there were people who had variously publicly 'come out' in the press and radio and tv and were very vocal and open about being HIV-infected. They found it odd that my ethics committee insisted on anonymity and use of pseudonyms. So, where people insisted on use of their names and had proof that this was out in the open, I used their names. However, I respected anonymity for all other participants. The bigger challenge was explaining this to two reviewers for a journal article I submitted. One asked if ethics were relative and not standard for all study participants. The other insisted that I apply pseudonyms to all participants regardless of their own wishes - of course as a measure of ensuring ethics.
The other scenario was when I was conducting research among mostly elderly traditional birth attendants in a rural African village. Most of them were religious and had very high standards of truth-telling. For many of these women, whenever we explained that we were going to report the data using pseudonyms, they interpreted this as telling lies about who they were - a sort of misrepresentation of the facts. I had to explain many times to the research assistants that it was for the sake of ensuring anonymity, and confidentiality and protecting the participants and all that argument. But these ladies often felt it was morally wrong. Eventually after some research team consultation, we asked the women who had problems with the issue to choose their own pseudonyms. Most did, and these are what I worked with.
On another note, the other issue I am struggling with as I write up some ethnographic data collected on the beaches in my study area, is using pseudonyms for the study sites. I have seen it done by other researchers, but the thing is by merely describing the study setting, a person knowledgeable to the area can immediately identify the setting and the specific location - there are few beaches and on these, the hotels and motels and bars and restaurants are so distinct that anyone who has been to this area would be able to make them out. So I feel that by pseudonymising the area, I am not really ensuring that much of anonymity. What do other list members feel about this?
Many thanks for bringing up the issue.

Stella Nyanzi (BA, MA, MSc, PhD),
Medical Anthropologist/ Research Assistant,
Law, Gender and Sexuality Research Project,
Faculty of Law,
Makerere University Kampala,
P. O. Box 7062, 
Kampala - Uganda.
'Eby'obuwangwa bya kwenyumirizangamu! Bataka tuzze mutubulire eby'emiziro n'ebika; bwebalitubuuza tuliwon'okuswaala - buli omu ng'amanyi eyo gyasibuka. Eby'obuwangwa z'ensulo gy'emilandila.' Philly Bongoley Lutaaya
'The judges of normality are present everywhere!' Michel Foucalt

--- On Thu, 7/30/09, urbanth-l-request at lists.ysu.edu <urbanth-l-request at lists.ysu.edu> wrote:

From: urbanth-l-request at lists.ysu.edu <urbanth-l-request at lists.ysu.edu>
Subject: URBANTH-L Digest, Vol 246, Issue 4
To: urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu
Date: Thursday, July 30, 2009, 2:27 PM

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Today's Topics:

   1. a question concerning methods/ethics (Fethi Keles)
       (Peoples' Movement)
   3. Re: a question concerning methods/ethics
   4. Re: a question concerning methods/ethics (Bascom Guffin)
   5. Re: a question concerning methods/ethics (Brian L Adams-Thies)
   6. Re: a question concerning methods/ethics (Marc Tyrrell)

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