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This article draws heavily on the post-abyssal philosophy of Boaventura de Sousa Santos in order to theorise new ways of thinking about research ethics in settings affected by armed conflict and crisis, and to put them into practice. Our article explores the dilemmas and tensions faced by four graduate students and a supervisor across diverse international settings. For some of us, these are places we call home, for others these are places that provide refuge to our people: Afghanistan, Jordan, Lebanon and India. We seek to deepen standard understandings of ethics as institutionalised in university forms, arguing that tidy checklists for safety and risk mitigation do not adequately address the complex affective and socio-political struggles permeating research, and the bodies of researchers, in these settings. Our main focus here is on how we can synthesise our various experiences in order to offer something of value to others who may be about to go into the field in settings affected by armed conflict and crisis. The question that we address, then, is: how can researchers avoid the limitations, obfuscations and silences of traditional institutional ethics in order to adopt a situated, embodied, post-abyssal research ethic that might open up new spaces for emotion, encounter, and engagement with struggle, risk and voicing? We use an autoethnographic approach that enables congruence with the aims of this article, and that supports our aspirations for enhanced impact through powerful narrative. We end with discussion that contains suggestions for institutions, supervisors, researchers, and for funding and professional bodies.

Original publication




Journal article

Publication Date



47 (4)


1102 - 1119