The dangers of writing up: a cautionary tale from Bangladesh

  • Harriet Matsaert
  • Zahir Ahmed Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka
  • Faruqe Hussain International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh
  • Noushin Islam International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh

Abstract

In this paper, we reflect on our experiences of writing up for an 'action research' project in Bangladesh. In this work we wanted both to produce high quality anthropological analysis, and also to meet development aims, which depended on effective partnerships with those we were studying. In writing up we found that these aims can be conflicting. Our experience highlights the need for applied anthropologists to be acutely aware of their role and status and to be prepared for the kind of reaction their text may provoke. Some practical lessons include a recommendation to keep the text a 'work in progress' for as long as possible, using this time to share and revise it with others and to build consensus before publication. We also found it useful to move from a critical to an appreciative stance in our analysis. We believe that this change of focus does not lessen the rigour of analysis but presents information in a more constructive way which is conducive to partnerships and action.

Author Biographies

Harriet Matsaert
Harriet Matsaert is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. She can be contacted at hq(AT)matsaert.net.
Zahir Ahmed, Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka
Zahir Ahmed is Head of the Social Anthropology Department of Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka. He can be contacted at zahmed69(AT)hotmail.com.
Faruqe Hussain, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh
Faruqe Hussain is at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B). He can be contacted at  farukjuniv(AT)hotmail.com.
Noushin Islam, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh
Noushin Islam is at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B). She can be contacted at noushin_islam(AT)yahoo.com.