Qualitative Social Work, 7(4) pp 427-447
This article problematizes the slippery notion of `informed consent’ and its negotiation in participatory longitudinal ethnographic research with children and young people. It does so within the context of new ethical bureaucracies (Boden et al., in press; Hammersley, 2006). Drawing upon an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded methodological research project exploring the everyday lives and identities of eight children and young people in care, the article reinvigorates the intersubjective, situated and negotiated approach to research ethics as ongoing dialogue in everyday fieldwork relations. We consider the concept of `becoming participant’ to foreground the micro-ethical moments of complex and ambivalent engagements and disengagements within the research process. The notion of `becoming participant’, we suggest, may provide a conceptual language of description to analyse the complex terrain of consent, as always-in-process and unfinished. Drawing upon episodes of recorded fieldwork relations, we apply this notion to explore what it means to undertake participatory research where consent is `iterative and uncertain . . . and open to revision and questioning’ (Economic and Social Research Council [ESRC], 2005: 24). We do not aim to resolve this dilemma, but instead aim to invite and reinvite questioning of what it means to negotiate informed consent in participatory research with young people.