Online training


Online training
BYO computer, your house, your address


16 Dec 2021


2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Researching Illicit Markets & Doing Fieldwork in Grey / Dangerous Spaces

This online workshop has been organised by the Security, Conflict and Justice (SCJ) Pathway and is open to all ESRC and non-ESRC funded PhD and MA Social Research students within the WRDTP’s seven partner universities. Whilst this workshop is aimed at students from the SCJ and CDD Pathways, PGRs from all seven interdisciplinary Pathways are welcome to attend.

This training event is open to PGRs at all levels of their studies but is most relevant to those who plan to undertake fieldwork in the future. Its objective of critical reflection upon the challenges of researching illicit markets and grey/dangerous fieldwork spaces includes important lessons for PGRs for their current, and future, research ambitions.

Illegal wildlife trade in Mozambique; smuggling in the Middle East and North Africa; kidnapping and firearms-traffic in Mexico’s North-Western borderlands: this training event brings together diverse, cross-disciplinary, experience of conducting research into illicit markets and grey, often dangerous, fieldwork spaces. It draws upon the panel’s collective expertise to foster critical discussion and  reflection on the research challenges that illicit markets present, as well as the methodological approaches adopted to address them. In negotiating such informal settings, how can PGRs develop the level of contextual appreciation and awareness of the politics of these illicit markets necessary to both secure institutional approach as well as to safely conduct their research? What role can local collaborators and facilitators play within securing access and what are the research responsibilities to them, both during fieldwork and when leaving the field? What alternative research strategies can be pursued when access for fieldwork becomes frustrated or becomes too risky? How has research into illicit markets been impacted by COVID-19 and what are the future research priorities in this area?

This online training event of the Security, Conflict and Justice Pathway will address these questions and offer critical insights into how to negotiate these fieldwork settings characterised by informality and illegality. Whilst it will be of particular relevance to WRDTP PGRs whose research is concerned with illicit markets and grey/dangerous research spaces, it will also be beneficial to those seeking to conduct research into contested, peripheral and unstable settings.

This training event will:

  1. engage PGRs with the contemporary dynamics of illicit markets from across diverse global settings;
  2. provide PGRs with insights and useful tips through which to address the challenges, pitfalls, risks and trade-offs of researching illicit markets; and,
  3. enable PGRs to ask expert researchers questions pertinent to their own fieldwork, as well as to be more critically reflective about it.

This training session will be delivered online – a link to the training course will be provided to delegates. 

PLEASE NOTE: Our online training sessions will be recorded and will be available on the VIRE in an edited format for those students who cannot attend. If you wish to join this session but do not wish for your contributions to be included in the edited VIRE resource, please ensure that you select NO when prompted in the online booking form regarding recording.

Selected Optional Pre-Reads:

Gallien, Max (2021). “Researching the Politics of Illegal Activities.” PS: Political Science & Politics, 54(3) July 2021: 467-71.

Gallien, Max (2021) “Solitary Decision-Making and Fieldwork Safety.” In The Companion to Peace and Conflict Fieldwork, edited by Roger Mac Ginty, Roddy Brett, and Birte Vogel, pp. 163–74. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2021.

Gallien, Max & Weigand, Florian (2021) The Routledge Handbook of Smuggling. This online handbook has an entire section dedicated to methodologies and is available on

Massé, F. (2020) ‘Conservation Law Enforcement: Policing Protected Areas’, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 110(3): 758-773.

Massé, F., et al (2021)A feminist political ecology of wildlife crime: The gendered dimensions of a poaching economy and its impacts in Southern Africa’, Geoforum, 126: pp. 205-214.