Critical Prison Research and University Research Ethics Boards: Homogenization of Inquiry and Policing of Carceral Knowledge

Authors

  • Gillian Balfour Trent University
  • Joane Martel Université Laval

Keywords:

Canada, critical research, Indigenous, prison, research ethics, Canadá, investigación crítica, indígenas, cárcel, ética de la investigación

Abstract

This article illustrates how authoritative regulatory practices that research ethics boards may deploy when assessing non-traditional social research may pave the way to a homogenization of inquiry and forms of policing of knowledge. The authors sought institutional ethics clearance from multiple research ethics boards in the case of a critically-oriented participatory action-based study with formerly incarcerated persons in Canada. Evidence is provided from two case studies. Two unexpected challenges were encountered from research ethics board members. The first challenge was related to the board’s stereotypical bias about the violent potential of former prisoners (as co-researchers and participants). The second challenge was related to an overly cautious interpretation of federal ethical guidelines leading to the exclusion of Indigenous peoples from the project. Both challenges have in common that they point to research ethics boards’ possible role in the policing of knowledge which may jeopardize researchers’ ability to engage in critical scholarship.

El artículo ilustra las prácticas regulatorias autoritarias que los comités de ética en investigación pueden adoptar, y cómo éstas allanan el camino a la homogeneización de las indagaciones y a la vigilancia sobre la producción de conocimiento. Se exhiben pruebas de dos estudios de caso en los cuales los miembros del comité se toparon con situaciones que no esperaban. La primera estaba relacionada con el sesgo típico de los comités sobre el potencial violento de antiguos reclusos, y la segunda, con una interpretación excesivamente prudente de directrices éticas federales, lo cual desembocó en la exclusión de personas indígenas del proyecto. Ambas situaciones señalan al posible rol de los comités de ética como vigilantes de la producción de conocimiento, algo que podría poner en peligro la capacidad de los investigadores para realizar una labor académica crítica.

Available from: https://doi.org/10.35295/osls.iisl/0000-0000-0000-0931

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Author Biographies

Gillian Balfour, Trent University

Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Sociology
Trent University
Peterborough, ON, CANADA

Joane Martel, Université Laval

Full Professor of Criminology
School of Social Work
Laval University
Québec City, QC, CANADA

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Published

14-07-2017

How to Cite

Balfour, G. and Martel, J. (2017) “Critical Prison Research and University Research Ethics Boards: Homogenization of Inquiry and Policing of Carceral Knowledge”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 8(2), pp. 225–246. Available at: https://opo.iisj.net/index.php/osls/article/view/903 (Accessed: 23 February 2024).