Expanding boundaries: Unmaking and remaking secrecy in field research

Nina Klimburg-Witjes, Matthias Leese, Paul Trauttmansdorff

Veröffentlichungen: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftArtikelPeer Reviewed


This paper empirically retraces and conceptualizes secrecy in the study of security. Building on 27 qualitative, semi-structured interviews with social scientists about their field research experiences, we use Gieryn’s concept of “boundary work” to rethink secrecy not as a self-evident separator between clearly demarcated spheres but as something that is negotiated, suspended, or circumvented in social situations. A boundary perspective allows us to highlight how contextualized social interactions draw and redraw lines between what can be known and what remains classified. Our analysis identifies three ways in which boundaries around secrecy can be expanded: fallibility, co-optation, and ambiguity. Explicating and empirically substantiating these forms of boundary work portrays secrecy as continuously performed and reconfigured. The paper contributes to current debates about field research by providing a different conceptual angle: one that favours performativity rather than individual capacity to reflect how access to security sites and actors comes into being.
Seiten (von - bis)168-197
FachzeitschriftPolitical anthropological research on international social sciences
Frühes Online-Datum8 Nov. 2022
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2022

ÖFOS 2012

  • 506007 Internationale Beziehungen
  • 509017 Wissenschaftsforschung
  • 509024 Sicherheitsforschung