Power dynamics in the use of qualitative methods in humanitarianism

Margaux Pinaud, Kristina Tschunkert, Augusta Nannerini

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Humanitarian scholars and organisations regularly use qualitative methods for their research on humanitarianism. Yet, efforts to identify and address the power dynamics that arise between researchers and participants, among participants, and among researchers themselves in data collection and analysis are lacking. This chapter reviews power issues emerging around interviews, focus group discussions, and participant observation - the three most common types of qualitative methods used in humanitarian contexts. Drawing on the literature and on their own experiences, the authors raise attention to key ways through which control can be exercised at various points of research processes. These include choices related to design, participants, and setting, but also the navigation of individual or group interactions and the positionality of those involved in analysis and dissemination. Acknowledging and engaging with these dynamics, the authors suggest, through continuous reflexivity and, when possible, co-production, is essential to generate ethical, inclusive, and nuanced knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on Humanitarianism and Inequality
EditorsSilke Roth, Bandana Purkayastha, Tobias Denskus
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781802206555
ISBN (Print)9781802206548
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2024


  • focus group discussions
  • humanitarianism
  • interviews
  • participant observation
  • power
  • qualitative methods

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global inequalities
  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute


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