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The editors of African Studies Review won’t retract a recent article by two white scholars promoting autoethnography, a research method that infuses personal experience into one’s work. That’s despite a petition drafted by seven scholars of African heritage asking that it do so, on the grounds that centering researchers’ experiences is harmful to local communities and otherwise ethically unsound. In a statement responding to the petition Monday, journal editors Benjamin Lawrance and Cajetan Iheka affirmed that African studies “must always follow appropriate ethical guidelines respectful to African communities. The ASR unequivocally rejects any research protocols and methods that produce harm for African peoples.”
At the same time, the editors said, “Calls for the retraction of the article are ill-advised. We decline to do this. We cannot do this. We fail to see how withdrawal is merited under any of the grounds in the Committee on Publications Ethics [guidelines for retraction] adhered to by our publisher,” Cambridge University Press. They also called on the original petitioners to “condemn the vitriolic abuse to which the authors [of the autoethnography article, Katrina Daly Thompson and Kathryn Mara, both of the University of Wisconsin at Madison] have been subjected” via online harassment.
Chisomo Kalinga, one of the original seven authors of the retraction petition and Chancellor’s Fellow in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, said on Twitter, “Myself & other petitioners have also been subjected to bullying & harassment for writing this open letter. But @ASRJournal editors have collectively agreed to respond in the manner that acknowledges the safety of the ‘Autoethnography’ authors and not ours. okay then. Registered.”