University of Oulu

Md Azmeary Ferdoush, To “help” or not to “help” the participant: A global South ethnographer’s dilemma in the global South, Geoforum, Volume 124, 2021, Pages 75-78, ISSN 0016-7185,

To “help” or not to “help” the participant : a global South ethnographer’s dilemma in the global South

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Author: Ferdoush, Md Azmeary1
Organizations: 1Pentti Kaiteran Katu 1, Geography Research Unit, Room FY 323-I, University of Oulu, FI-90014, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2021
Publish Date: 2022-03-23


Ethnographers are often faced with the dilemma of whether to help or not help participants, especially those from the global South conducting fieldwork at “home.” While such dilemmas are frequent, rarely any guideline directly engages with them. In this brief paper, I engage with the ethical dilemma of whether to help research participants during fieldwork, especially in the global South where participants are often marginalized populations who may ask for crucial help. In so doing, I first question what should be considered as “help.” Then I juxtapose help with the ethical issues of reciprocity and responsibility. Third, I briefly focus on the emotional burden that ethnographers often become subject to for not being able to help the way they might have wanted and finally, discuss uneven immersion as a tactic to deal with the dilemma.

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Series: Geoforum
ISSN: 0016-7185
ISSN-E: 1872-9398
ISSN-L: 0016-7185
Volume: 124
Pages: 75 - 78
DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2021.06.004
Type of Publication: A2 Review article in a scientific journal
Field of Science: 5141 Sociology
519 Social and economic geography
Funding: This work was supported by East-West Center (Field Research Grant), American Association of Geographers (Dissertation Research Grant), University of Hawai’i (Student Travel Grant) and JP Sharma Memorial Scholarship by the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Hawai’i.
Copyright information: © 2021 The Author. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (