Carrying out research in areas controlled by armed actors requires an ongoing process of negotiation along a series of different axes. Permission from these non-state groups is essential in order to have access to the communities they dominate, yet independence from them is also fundamental to the integrity of the research. External research engages in negotiations which mirror the compromises that residents make on a daily basis. This briefing note traces the process of negotiating access with militias and drug dealers for research to take place in Rio's favelas. The challenge throughout these negotiations was demonstrating enough flexibility to appear not to be a threat, while at the same time maintaining the neutrality of the research. Militias and drug dealers each set different ‘terms’ for allowing the research to go ahead in relation to their specific concerns.
IDS Bulletin (2009) 40 (3) 100-102 [DOI: 10.1111/j.1759-5436.2009.00046.x]