Call for papers: Special issue "Negotiating Consent in African Studies: Fieldwork Ethics, Moralities, and Shifting Power Relations in North-South research interactions"


CALL FOR PAPERS for a special issue: Negotiating Consent in African Studies: Fieldwork Ethics, Moralities, and Shifting Power Relations in North-South research interactions. For the Nordic Journal of African Studies.

Special issue editors: Stig Jensen (University of Copenhagen), Rune Larsen (University of Copenhagen), and Amanda Møller Rasmussen (University of Copenhagen)

Social scientists at Nordic universities are increasingly being held accountable by university employers and funding agencies to manage their data ‘ethically’ by adhering to standardized and institutionally regulated best-practices. This turn towards institutionalized ethics mushroomed following the introduction of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018. As universities increasingly consider ‘informed consent’ in terms of legal qualities as ‘grounds for processing personal data’ (Maeckelbergh 2021), the question of ‘consent’ is frequently equivalated with a standardized, physical, and written form, presented in highly technical, bureaucratic, and legal language. Discussions on how to relate to the research field, and the people inhabiting it, have been increasingly replaced with bureaucratic forms, audits, and ethical assessments based on clear-cut legal divisions on what constitutes ethical research practices. However, this format, in many African contexts, brings along connotations and collective memories of colonial exploitation and intentions of ill-faithed visitors to the continent.

As many African scholars (such as Mkhize (2006), Nsamenang (2007), and Remose (2007), Gaie (2023) and Onuhua (2007), to name a few) have already noted issues of confidentiality, justice, ethics, and respect manifest differently in many African settings, as compared to, for example, Scandinavian cultures. Yet, much North-South research partnerships (whether it comes in the form of funding, fieldwork, or publishing) continue to rely on ethical standards based in a western sociocultural tradition set by institutions outside the African continent. This is further complicated when institutional norms from the North clash with both existent and non-existent bureaucratic measures for research conduct in the country where research is conducted. Such dissonances often lead researchers to ethical and moral dilemmas and even involuntary transgression of boundaries.

This special issue wishes to initiate a debate about how we as researchers can navigate standardized models (often based in Western norms) and institutional forms of ‘informed consent’, while also respecting the complex, heterogenous, and dynamic ideas about ‘consent’ and ‘agency’ that we meet in different contexts and places on the African continent. We therefore wish to use empirical experiences with negotiating consent as a lens through which to explore the changing landscapes that Africanists navigate as they oscillate between university halls and the field. We invite papers focused on, but not limited to, addressing the following questions:

  • What are some of the ethical and moral implications of the new standardization and bureaucratization of ‘consent’, and how does it materialize in fieldwork moralities?
  • What factors beyond institutional expectations influence researchers as they pursue informed consent and ethical research more broadly?
  • Who is to define what determines legitimate and authentic informed consent in qualitative research? And ultimately, what can such debates on ‘consent’ in African Studies bring to both a Nordic and African research context?

We prioritize papers by Africa-based scholars as well as scholars based at both African and Nordic universities. 

Abstract deadline: Monday the 4th of December (at midnight). We will inform applicants on abstract selection on Monday the 11th of December 2023.

Final papers of accepted abstracts should be submitted to the editors on Sunday the 10th of March 2024, via the NJAS online submission session.

Please send your abstracts (300 words) to either:, or