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Residential ethnography, mixed loyalties, and religious power: ethical dilemmas in faith-based addiction treatment

Williams, Andrew P. J. ORCID: 2017. Residential ethnography, mixed loyalties, and religious power: ethical dilemmas in faith-based addiction treatment. Social and Cultural Geography 18 (7) , pp. 1016-1038. 10.1080/14649365.2016.1247194

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The paper provides a platform for geographical reflection on the hidden struggles ethnographers face working in the area of religion, addiction and drug treatment. Specifically, it examines the complex ethical and practical dilemmas involved in residential ethnography inside a faith-based therapeutic community working in the area of addiction and rehabilitation. Residential ethnography provided valuable insights into social life in therapeutic community, and more broadly, offers an ethical and participatory approach to research in closed institutional settings. Residential immersion in faith-based therapeutic environments however raised significant challenges around identity management; access and consent; and the dilemma of ‘mixed loyalties’ – a term that describes a set of ethical practices characterised by ethical conflict, compromise and negotiation in which the researcher, by nature of their participation, is expected to conform to certain values, practices, and procedures that may contradict their own personal ethics. To ground discussion on the variegated and contested nature of mixed loyalties, this paper examines the exercise of religious power and the ways ethnographers become enrolled in, and must negotiate, a series of power-dynamics that are unclear, uncomfortable, and potentially exclusionary. By illustrating the difficult decisions ethnographers must make when negotiating pressures to uphold – or challenge – religious beliefs and practices in faith-based addiction treatment settings, this paper calls for greater critical reflection on the ways geographers are implicated in the field and the practical ethics of engagement used to navigate ethical tensions.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Residential ethnography, religious power, ethical dilemmas, positionality, addiction
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 1464-9365
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 3 November 2016
Date of Acceptance: 26 September 2016
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2023 01:55

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