Researchers have noted how local attitudes that connect research to the external world could affect findings differently in different contexts. How this played out for an indigenous researcher is the new perspective presented in this paper. Although an indigene of the study area, I became an outsider of sorts as soon as I began to show interest in malaria in a way that suggested to locals that the results of my investigation could eventually get to the government or the Western world – locals saw those two entities as embodying power and material abundance. Although I worked as an insider, I noticed that my position as a researcher also gave me an identity of the authority and power of the state and the global North. As soon as I began fieldwork, targets began to respond to me more or less as they would do to representatives of government or the North; for whatever I eventually get “out there,” irrespective of my identity, could be crucial information for local wellbeing. Again, locals (especially in predominantly non-literate settings) often associate paper and writing to government and organizations based outside local communities. This played out as I requested some participants to sign consent forms. They were uneasy to sign the forms, and those who did sign became less open afterwards. This brought home the point that ethics of social research need not be rigidly followed across diverse contexts. In all, factors such as level of literacy and general perception of the ultimate purpose of research among the target population will affect data validity to different degrees irrespective of the researcher’s identity.


Control Effect, Data Credibility, Indigenous Ethnography, Informed Consent, Participant Observation

Author Bio(s)

Chidi Ugwu has a PhD in medical anthropology. His research interests include kinship studies, religious systems and the political economy of public health. He currently teaches social anthropology and social research methods in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: chidi.ugwu@unn.edu.ng.


I am grateful to Professors J. C. Okeibunor, P.-J. Ezeh, Drs. Chima Izugbara, John Manton, and Victor Manfredi for critical guidance. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Postgraduate Board of the Department of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Nigeria in January 2016 and in the Institute of African Studies seminar series in the University of Ghana at Legon in April 2016. Comments received on these occasions helped to improve the paper. Thanks are due to the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) for funding that helped me with fieldwork, and to the ACLS for funding support that helped me in writing up.

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