The ethical performance of access and consent in ethnographic research on social work encounters with migrant-background service users

The ethical performance of access and consent in ethnographic research on social work encounters with migrant-background service users
Hanna Kara, Maija Jappinen, Camilla Nordberg, Anna-Leena Riitaoja
Qualitative Social Work, 2022; pp 1-16
Open Access
Abstract
In this article, we contribute to an emerging body of literature concerning the often overlooked topics of access and consent in research. We posit our understanding of access and consent as continuous ethical reflection and negotiation, conceptualised here as ethical performance, which is particularly valuable in research in institutional contexts defined by numerous power asymmetries. We draw empirically from research on street level institutional encounters between social work practitioners and migrant-background service users in the Helsinki capital region. Access in this research was a multi-stage process including various stage-related negotiations, and the previous stages always influenced the stages that followed. Nevertheless, access and consent were always erratic and subject to revision. We describe how the need for ethical reflexivity arises in various concrete, often unpredictable, situations, and argue for the importance of paying explicit analytical attention to negotiations regarding access and consent.

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