Doing Qualitative Fieldwork in Cuba: Social research in politically sensitive locations

Karen Bell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Cuba, a country that is often portrayed as an isolated, secretive and bureaucratic dictatorship, would appear to present many challenges for a social researcher intent on eliciting the genuine opinions of the native population. However, in December 2008, I began just such an investigation, researching environmental justice' (i.e. the social and distributive impacts of environmental policy and practice) in the country, using a mixture of interview and participant observation techniques. As might be expected, much of the fieldwork was dominated by the sensitive political context, creating numerous methodological issues and dilemmas, as well as personal challenges. This paper looks at the difficulties faced, in particular with regard to the problem of attaining reliability and validity, and the strategies that were used to overcome them. It will be of relevance to anyone considering carrying out fieldwork investigations in socialist, and other politically sensitive, locations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-124
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013


  • research
  • Cuba
  • socialist
  • qualitative research
  • fieldwork locations


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