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Organized by Johana Kotisova. Details will follow. | Location: E 013 in the Oude Manhuispoort

Event details of Fieldwork that breaks your heart
Date 1 July 2022

Fieldwork is not always fun. Some of us even conduct research that breaks our hearts. As researchers, we meet people worldwide who suffer, are traumatized, have to flee their country, face harassment and torture, and live and work in unimaginably precarious conditions. Due to our physical and emotional involvement in highly emotionally charged fields of research (journalism and media), we face various challenges. These fields—in our case, war and conflict reporting, crisis reporting, and exile journalism—require all of our personalities, bodies, and mental capacities and, in turn, affect us as human beings. We are vulnerable observers studying vulnerable observers. Our research requires making the vulnerability known, yet we (especially in media and journalism studies) lack the language and genre to articulate what happens when we work.

This hybrid seminar brings together four journalism researchers/media sociologists to raise particular epistemological, methodological, and personal aspects and implications of doing heartbreaking fieldwork. We believe that sharing our physically and emotionally complex experiences can help us make sense of them, better understand how we can professionally and personally deal with them, and make them beneficial for our research. 

The seminar combines shorter presentations with more extended discussions and addresses the following questions: How to deal with personally rich/heavy fieldwork experiences? How do we make emotionally charged fieldwork methodologically correct, ethically right, and personally sustainable? How do we navigate relationships and emotional connections with our ‘research subjects’? How do we work with our positionality, gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, and related forms of capital? Can/should we observe the suffering of our research participants silently, as innocent bystanders, or do we have the responsibility to act? And how?

When & Where

  • Friday 1 July 2022, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. CET
  • In Amsterdam (room E 013 in the Oude Manhuispoort) & online at the following link: 
  • Feel free to join us for the whole event or a part of it (for more information on the program, contact


13.00 - 13.50: Maena Berger (PhD candidate, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris): Emotions and methodological choices: Repeated in-depth interviews with Syrian journalists-fixers in Turkey

14.00 - 14.50: Yazan Badran (Visiting professor/Postdoctoral researcher, Echo/imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel): The ‘intimate insider’: On negotiating our mutual Syrian-ness in ethnographic research in a Syrian newsroom in Istanbul

15.00 - 15.50: Johana Kotišová (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow, ASCA & Media Studies, University of Amsterdam): ‘Insurgent research’ of media professionals covering Ukraine and Palestine

16.00 - 16.50: Summary and final discussion chaired by Richard Stupart (Assistant Professor, Center for Journalism and Media Studies, University of Groningen)

Target Groups

  • researchers who study conflict journalism, crisis reporting, and exile journalism;
  • researchers who conduct research with (vulnerable, suffering) human beings;
  • researchers analyzing polarized discourses, hate speech, online harassment, etc.;
  • any researcher who sometimes feels that their fieldwork/analysis is ‘too much’.