Whose lives are worth more? Politicising research safety in developing countries

This article develops the ‘safety–emotion–power’ nexus and highlights the role of emotion in research by politicising the unequal power relationships between researchers and NGO staff members in defining danger and negotiating safety in their fieldwork. Drawing on the author’s research experiences in Bangladesh and Ghana, it argues that research touching on emotion-laden topics can inflict stress and pain on NGO staff members and their families. The ‘right to safety’ of NGO staff members is often compromised by researchers’ ‘right to know’. The norms of conflict-avoidance also deter NGO staff members from negotiating safety. In addressing these issues, the article suggests three principles for taking account of emotional aspects of safety in research ethics.