This paper discusses the risks, dilemmas, and their management in conducting an ethnographic study of marginal youth at risk for delinquency in a working class community in England.
An ethnographic study in which the researcher immerses himself/herself in the experiences, attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviors of those being studied holds distinctive ethical dilemmas due to the reduction in social distance between the researcher and the subjects of the research. The research described was undertaken under the general belief that marginalized youth in marginalized communities are at high risk for delinquency. Ethnographic research requires that although the researcher selects a project based on certain preconceptions about the research subject, the research itself must accurately record and present what the subjects reveal about themselves in the course of the study. A significant ethical issue is whether to report crimes observed or revealed in conversations with the research subjects and whether police interventions in the community should be critiqued from the perspective of the research subjects. In both cases, the researcher determined that the current and any future research would be compromised and researchers endangered by any such action on his part. The identification of and posture on these ethical issues must be determined prior to entering ethnographic research on marginalized, at-risk subjects, and these positions should be made known to the subjects and maintained throughout the research period. 56 references