China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This proposed panel adopts a critical lens to examine access, ethics, and power dynamics in conducting social science research in contemporary China. Although these topics have been addressed in earlier scholarship, we advance the literature by conceptualizing China as a research site that is not only geographically confined and culturally situated, but also politically restricted and inevitably affected by local/global contestations. We direct our attention to issues pertinent to 1) gaining access to research sites amid global and local tensions, 2) conducting online ethnography when social relations are constituted beyond tangible, physical locales, 3) mobilizing local and translocal resources to protect participants’ rights in an ethically under-regulated field, 4) navigating researcher-participant relationships to interview diverse elite groups.
Specifically, Luo and Zheng suggest that researchers can use intermediary organizations to gain access to and enhance credibility in survey studies; Wang and Liu offer insights on how online ethnography engenders a refined understanding of immersion and reflexivity; Zhao examines how Chinese scholars navigate an ethically under-regulated research site; Li attends to interviewees’ sphere of influence and researchers’ self-positioning when conducting interviews with elites. Our reflective insights call for a critical examination on how knowledge is constructed through the practices of social science research in China Studies. Together, the panel advances a transdisciplinary conversation on methodologies, epistemologies, and challenges of doing critical social science research in contemporary China.