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.
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