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Notes from Within and Without – Research Permits between Requirements and “Realities”

Ulf Engel (U Leipzig, Germany), Claudia Gebauer (U Bayreuth, Germany), Anna Hüncke (U Konstanz, Germany) (eds.)
Publication Date 2015
Publication SPP Working Paper No. 16
Publisher DFG Priority Programme (SPP 1448): "Adaptation and Creativity in Africa"
Language English
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The SPP Working Paper No. 16 combines a collection of short texts on the intricate process that enables doctoral researchers to conduct “fieldwork” in the first place. Even though all contributions focus on experiences made in a particular African country (i.e., Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda), it should by all means be kept in mind that this is not at all an Africa-typical topic. The idea for this working paper originated from a workshop lunch in Leipzig in early 2015. Experiences on preparations and conditions for fieldwork were contributed by Claudia Gebauer (U Bayreuth, Germany), Katharina Heitz Tokpa (U Fribourg, Germany), Anna Hüncke (U Constanze, Germany), Olivia Klimm (U Fribourg, Germany), Shahadat Hossain (U Dortmund, Germany), Sung-Joon Park (U Halle, Germany), Jannik Schritt (U Goettingen, Germany), and Norman Schräpel (U Halle, Germany).

In fact the collection of short texts, or vignettes, in this working paper of the SPP 1448 is not about the various understandings and practices of “fieldwork”, but the intricate process that enables doctoral researchers to conduct “fieldwork” in the first place. The common thread of all five texts is the experience of applying for, and eventually being granted, a research permit that enables one to go to “the field”. The idea for this working paper was born out of a workshop lunch in Leipzig in early 2015 when a group of junior researchers and the editor shared more or less absurd, funny, troubling yet also serious or otherwise memorable events around their own attempts to get a research permit in an African country.

As any superficial Google or Iixquick research will tell the interested reader, the necessity to apply for and, eventually, be granted a research permit is very common throughout the world. Thus, for instance, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Ecological Services in St. Paul MN (MDNR) calls upon natural scientists to get a research permit before they are allowed to work in conservation areas in this US state; and if the proposed research “involves a state-listed threatened or endangered species, [one] will need a special permit from the Endangered Species Coordinator & Supervisor, Natural Heritage and Nongame Research Program, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources” (MDNR 2015). The reasons why state institutions regulate research in protected natural sites are quite obvious.

Biographical Note:
Professor Ulf Engel is the head of several study programmes, such as the current master's programme "Global Studies: A European Perspective " at the Global and European Studies Institute (U Leipzig) and the master's programme "Global Studies – Peace and Security in Africa " at the Institute of Peace and Security Studies (Addis Ababa U, Ethiopia). He is director of the Graduate Research Training Group (1261): “Critical Junctures of Globalization” and co-director of the DFG Priority Programme (SPP 1448) “Adaptation and Creativity in Africa: Technologies and Significations in the Production of Order and Disorder”.

Claudia Gebauer is member of the DFG Priority Programme (SPP 1448) under the project “Translations of the Adaptation to Climate Change: Paradigm in Eastern Africa”. Her research concentrates on political geography, cultural geography, cultural and spatial constructions, climate change, and urban studies focusing on Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.

Anna Hüncke is member of the DFG Priority Programme (SPP 1448) under the project “The Anthropology of Transnational Crime Control in Africa: The War on Drugs and the Fight against Human Trafficking”. Since 2011, she is a PhD candidate under the chair of social and cultural anthropology (U Constanze, Germany). She works on migration and the concept of boarders and human trafficking in South Africa.