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'As You Set Out for Ithaka': Practical, Epistemological, Ethical and Existential Questions About Socio-Legal Empirical Research in Conflict

41 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2013  

Sarah Nouwen

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law

Date Written: October 1, 2013

Abstract

This is the story behind another story. Inspired by the anthropological practice of reflexivity, it traces some practical, epistemological, ethical and existential questions behind a book based on empirical socio-legal research into international criminal law in situations of conflict. The challenges involved in such research are at times impossible to overcome. Indeed, the challenges may be such that the researcher will never be able to answer her original question fully and confidently. However, challenges can be findings in themselves. They may reveal insights into the role of law in a society, the limitations of vocabularies, the overexposure of international criminal law and inequalities in global knowledge production. Rather than merely obstructing research into a topical issue, challenges may shift the researcher’s attention to other, more fundamental, questions. Nonetheless, understanding challenges as findings does not resolve the existential problem of the researcher’s possible complicity in maintaining the very challenges that she analyses and perhaps ambitiously tries to overcome.

Keywords: Reflexivity, socio-legal research, empirical research, international criminal law, research ethics

JEL Classification: K3, K33, K4, K40

Suggested Citation

Nouwen, Sarah, 'As You Set Out for Ithaka': Practical, Epistemological, Ethical and Existential Questions About Socio-Legal Empirical Research in Conflict (October 1, 2013). University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 43/2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2341150 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2341150

Sarah Maria Heiltjen Nouwen (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law ( email )

10 West Road
Cambridge, CB3 9DZ
United Kingdom

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