Contemporary practices of capturing violence and violent capture

Ghent (Drongen Abbey) – 16-19 September 2024

Data collection in the social sciences, it can be argued, is always a form of capture. Engaging research environments, whether on the ground or from afar, requires certain techniques of entrapment. In this summer school on fieldwork in violent environments, we will reflect on these dynamics from different angles.

First, in the more classical sense, how do we as researchers go about capturing data for our research? What techniques do we use when we study violence? What are the do’s and don’ts? How do we prepare for fieldwork, how do we go about it in the field and how do we subsequently analyse and present our research? What makes research on violence, whether by rebels, gangs or governments, distinct from other research fields?

Secondly, in what ways is the capturing of data on violence a violent practice in and of itself? When and how, for instance, does it entail the use of direct violence, or the participation and witnessing of violence when in the field? What are the more indirect practices of structural, or systemic violent capture, notably in relation to colonial structures or questions of class, gender and race? How do different forms of fieldwork in many parts of the world continue to reify dominant (post-)colonial hierarchies of political and economic control?

If fieldwork in the post-colony and on marginalized groups elsewhere, is violent per definition, or per tradition, one straight position would be to argue that the only way forward is not to do it at all (see e.g. Tuck & Yang 2014). One may argue though that all field relations (incl. south-south and north-north) build on power imbalances of class, gender, ethnicity, race etc. which would disqualify social science research in general, and make comparisons impossible. We therefore see these relations as essential in creating mutual understandings and ultimately a way to communicate across social continuities.

However, it leaves us with a number of key questions. How and when is fieldwork in itself a form of violence? What justifies violent fieldwork? Can emancipatory goals be achieved despite it being violent? Are ethical approaches, along the idea “do no harm,” possible at all when doing fieldwork in postcolonial conflict environments? How do people ‘in the field’ relate to – often northern –  fieldworkers through postcolonial experiences? What procedures or transformations exist to bridge gaps and reduce violence inherent to our research activities? How to reverse or counter structural, symbolic and epistemic violent acts of research? Is it at all possible?

This summer school convenes scholars who have done research in violent environments. In conversation with doctoral students currently conducting “violent fieldwork”, tutors will share their experiences and comment on participants’ research plans and outcomes. Beyond group work on these questions, the summer school will also include peer-to-peer discussions, panel debates, reading studios and work with audio-visual material. In sum, the summer school aims to provide junior researchers with tailored advice on how to incorporate a reflexive attitude towards “researching violence and the violence of fieldwork” in their ongoing work.



Practical information

The summer school will take place at Drongen Abbey (built in 1138) which is located 6 kilometres from Gent (see The course will be open to a maximum of 30 participants. We invite applications by PhD and early post-doctoral students from the social sciences and humanities and priority will be given to students who have concluded substantial fieldwork and have worked on issues related to this call.

Selected candidates will be asked to submit a paper to be discussed during the Summer School. Candidates should apply by sending a one-page CV and a 1000-word outline of the research paper they want to discuss. The application should be sent to no later than 1 June 2024. Successful applicants will be notified by 15 June 2024. The participation fee is 350 Euro, covering participation, accommodation and food. Participants will cover their own travel expenses. The working language of the course is English.


Prof. Dr. Karen Büscher, Conflict Research Group, Ghent University

Prof. Dr. Maria Martin de Almagro Iniesta, Conflict Research Group, Ghent University

Prof. Dr. Esther Marijnen, Sociology of Development and Change group, Wageningen University

Prof. Dr. David Mwambari, Centre for Research on Peace and Development, KU Leuven

Prof. Dr. Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka, Service de Sociologie et Anthropologie, Université de Mons

Prof. Dr. Mats Utas, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Uppsala University

Prof. Dr. Judith Verweijen, Department of International Relations, Groningen University

Prof. Dr. Koen Vlassenroot, Conflict Research Group, Ghent University

Dr. Jeroen Cuvelier, Conflict Research Group, Ghent University

Dr. Vincent Foucher, Bourdeaux Institute of Political Studies, University of Bordeaux

(Dr.) Larissa-Diana Fuhrmann, Peace Research Institute Frankfurt

Dr. Maarten Hendriks, Conflict Research Group, Ghent University

(Dr.) Sam Kniknie, Conflict Research Group, Ghent University

Dr. Joschka Philipps, Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence, University of Bayreuth

Dr. Yusuf Serunkuma, Makerere Institute of Social Research, Makerere University

Dr. Christoph Vogel, Conflict Research Group, Ghent University