Connon I (2022) ‘What I’d really like to do is to bring them here and give them a piece of my mind’: Rethinking Expectations of ‘Solutions’ in Applied-Action Disaster Research. American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting 2022, Seattle, Washington, United States, 09.11.2022-13.11.2022.
With its emphasis on working in partnership with multiple institutions and providing ‘solutions’ to problems, applied-action research is often framed in a language of ‘tangibility’ and ‘measurable outcomes’. However, within the context of disaster and humanitarian research, the emphasis on providing tangible solutions by working with multiple institutions is especially problematic. Drawing on experiences of over four years of anthropological ethnographic fieldwork examining responses to extreme weather in Scotland within a multiple agency applied-action research context, this paper presents a reflective exploration of how diverse expectations for possible solutions manifested in range of a practical and ethical dilemmas within the field. I reveal that although differing expectations and complex power-relations embedded within the research context initially restricted interactions with community members, the process of navigating perceived loyalties and managing diverse expectations revealed important insights about long-standing conflicts between community members and institutional powers and also resulted in creating new opportunities for interaction that contributed to a sense of justice amongst community members. From this, I argue the predominant focus on the ‘tangible ends and outcomes’ within applied-action research is especially problematic in the disaster and humanitarian context because, as this study shows, not only does this place an insurmountable burden on the researcher, but often the value of the research for those directly affected by disaster lies in allowing them to voice their concerns and to have their concerns listened to.