Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften


Researching in Times of a Pandemic

COVID-19 RM Working Group on Asia in Transregional Perspective

Faculty Team


  • Creating a space to discuss the implications and ramifications of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with a particular regional focus on communities in South and Southeast Asia
  • Exchanging and collecting experiences and resources of planning for and conducting critical research in pandemic times and beyond
  • Providing a platform for co-learning on critical knowledge productions with regard to research design, research methods, sampling and ethical challenges


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Negotiating Research Ethics

An Initiative

Faculty Team
  • Dr. Rosa Cordillera A. Castillo – rosa.castillo(at)
  • PD Dr. Andrea Fleschenberg dos Ramos Pinéu – andrea.fleschenberg(at)
  • Dr. Sarah Holz,  - sarah.holz[at]


Research ethics shapes all stages of research: from conceptualising and designing a research project and gathering, analysing, and managing data, to writing and other forms of representation and engagement. It is integral to the entire process of knowledge production not only by established researchers but also by students. Yet, there is often a lack of attention given to research ethics pedagogy in various academic institutions. This problem is compounded by contestations on what constitutes research ethics in the qualitative social sciences, particularly since the current research ethics paradigm is based on the biomedical model. Relatedly, questions are raised on how research ethics can be made compatible with the epistemology and methodology of specific disciplines and of inter- and transdisciplinary approaches. Negotiating Research Ethics – An Initiative aims to establish sustained critical research ethics pedagogy, praxis, and responsive review processes (see Castillo 2018).

As an initiative guided by decolonial, decentred, and critical approaches, we also draw attention to the ways in which the coloniality of knowledge, being, and power shape research and knowledge production, and as such relevant to research ethics. We are conscious of how research and knowledge production has been and can be exploitative, extractive, racist, and unequal, particularly between the Global North and the Global South. This includes the ways in which European epistemologies are treated as universal while non-European scholars and epistemologies are devalued and debased. We thus seek to think through ways that students and scholars can recognize, confront, and dismantle these forms of coloniality in their academic practice, and work towards a "a transmodern, pluriversal decolonized world of multiple and diverse ethico-political projects in which there can exist a truly equal and horizontal communication and dialogue between the peoples of the world" (Grosfoguel, 2012, pp. 97-98).

We conceptualize research ethics not as a standardized, research design planning step, but rather as an ongoing process and negotiation from the beginning, i.e. the research idea, and that doesn’t stop with the dissemination of findings. It also challenges how we think of the ‘field’ as something we enter and leave, but rather understands it as navigating various ‘fields’ in the course and quest of knowledge production. It also challenges how we think of the ‘persons’ involved in our research process, how we design and build a knowledge production process, how we conceive ‘purpose’, ‘power’, ‘positionality’ and ‘relationships’ as well as responsibilities thereof. While ‘do no harm’ is a key principle of any research ethics model, we see this as a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional and multi-layered principle, part of shifting dynamics, relationships and subjectivities in the course of knowledge productions – requiring continuous reflection, negotiation and coping strategies, not simply a pre-field/research planning deliberation. How to plan and design, how to acquire, manage and sustain necessary resources and how to stay engaged and committed are challenging tasks that require academic exchange, training and continuous self-reflective learning processes, i.e. a sustained critical research ethics pedagogy, praxis, peer review and mentoring-cum-supervision processes.

To start a conversation within the Institute for Asian and African Studies as well as among the faculty and student body, we have taken a series of steps and activities.


More information: Course offerings, podcast series and reading materials