University of Cambridge > > Critical Approaches to ‘Vulnerability’ in Empirical Research (CAVER) [2019-20]

Critical Approaches to ‘Vulnerability’ in Empirical Research (CAVER) [2019-20]

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Alternate Mondays, 12.00 – 14.00 during term-time Seminar Room SG2 , Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Guidelines for ethical research practice frequently make reference to “vulnerable groups” who require ‘specifically considered protection’ throughout the research process. However, in empirical research across the disciplines we too often fail to reflect critically on what it means to define a person or group as “vulnerable”, and to extend these discussions to consider what specialised approaches to research with “vulnerable groups” might look like in practice.

As a group our aims are: To problematize the construction of some research participants as “vulnerable”, exploring and developing research practice that both makes provisions for the struggles, challenges and disadvantages experienced by many participants in research about social issues, but which also acknowledges participants’ agency and offers a meaningful and collaborative experience throughout every stage of the research process. To reflect on the dynamics of power that play out between researchers and research participants labelled as “vulnerable”, critiquing this dynamic without attempting to absolve researchers from their responsibility to address it, and exploring ways in which we can challenge this dynamic. To bring together academic researchers and people with lived experiences of multiple and complex disadvantages, who might be labelled as “vulnerable”, to collaboratively discuss and reflect on these issues.


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