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Joniak-Lüthi, Agnieszka (2016): Disciplines, silences and fieldwork methodology under surveillance. In: Zeitschrift für ethnologie, Vol. 141, No. 2: pp. 197-214
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Research in countries with extensive controlling regimes, such as the People's Republic of China, is a challenge to social anthropologists, who are supposed to live for extensive periods of time in the field, conduct in-depth interviews and engage in participant observation. Research in 'sensitive' (mingan) regions of China such as Xinjiang and Tibet, where surveillance is additionally enhanced, raises further methodological and ethical issues. Being monitored by the state links to fundamental questions of how to collect research material and how to work with research participants. The societal fear created by omnipresent and threatening surveillance destabilises social relations and affects ways of communicating, thereby creating multiple silences. Moreover, the awareness of the risk that the researcher brings to her informants results in self-censorship during fieldwork as well as in research output. This paper discusses these different forms of muting, by focusing on methodological challenges of 'hearing' silences.(l)