Dr. Campbell is an assistant professor of marine affairs and policy at Duke University Marine Laboratories, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516.
GATEKEEPERS AND KEYMASTERS: DYNAMIC RELATIONSHIPS OF ACCESS IN GEOGRAPHICAL FIELDWORK*
Article first published online: 21 APR 2010
2006 American Geographical Society
Volume 96, Issue 1, pages 97–121, January 2006
How to Cite
CAMPBELL, L. M., GRAY, N. J., MELETIS, Z. A., ABBOTT, J. G. and SILVER, J. J. (2006), GATEKEEPERS AND KEYMASTERS: DYNAMIC RELATIONSHIPS OF ACCESS IN GEOGRAPHICAL FIELDWORK. Geographical Review, 96: 97–121. doi: 10.1111/j.1931-0846.2006.tb00389.x
We gratefully acknowledge our various gatekeepers for their roles in facilitating our research. This article is in no way meant to dismiss their contributions to our research projects; rather, it recognizes their critical role in them. The research described here was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Abbott, Gray, Meletis), the International Development Research Council (Abbott), the World Wide Fund for Nature (Abbott), the U.S. Agency for International Development-life project (Abbott), the Tinker-Mellon Travel Grant, Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center, Duke University (Meletis), and the University of Western Ontario (Silver).
- Issue published online: 21 APR 2010
- Article first published online: 21 APR 2010
- geographical fieldwork;
- research methods
ABSTRACT. This article contributes to a recent and growing body of literature exploring the nature of fieldwork in human geography. Specifically, we critically examine the role of gatekeepers in providing access to “the field,” based on existing conceptualizations of gatekeepers in the literature and on our own experiences with gatekeepers. We argue that the concept of gatekeepers has been oversimplified, in that relationships between researchers and gatekeepers are often assumed to be unidirectional—with gatekeepers controlling or providing access by researchers—and predominantly static in form and time. Although we accept the necessity and advantages of working through gatekeepers, our experiences suggest that relationships with them are highly complex and evolve over time, with sometimes unexpected implications for research. In gathering and analyzing data, researchers become gatekeepers themselves, what we are calling “keymasters.” Reconceptualizing the gatekeeper-researcher relationship will contribute to ongoing efforts to more fully understand field-workers as undertaking a practice inherently political, personal, and linked to the production of knowledge.