Position Statement on Ethical Considerations
The following document was approved by the Board of the Society for
Ethnomusicology in 1998. As these "Ethical Considerations" will be
reviewed periodically, SEM members are encouraged to comment on details of the
text as well as on the general utility of the document. Send comments to the chair
of the Ethics Committee.
Society for Ethnomusicology, by addressing ethical concerns, hopes to
stimulate ongoing dialogue and debate in order to gain increased
understanding of ethical perspectives, and thus to respond as necessary
to ethical issues in the changing discipline of ethnomusicology.
Society for Ethnomusicology acknowledges that ethical systems differ
among ethnomusicologists and that the ethical values affirmed by these
statements do not necessarily represent those of all practitioners of
Society for Ethnomusicology also acknowledges that ethical systems and
values may differ between ethnomusicologists and their field consultants.
statements therefore serve as a formal acknowledgment of shared ethical
standards of our profession. They recognize common ground while
respecting differences in experience and perspective.
- Field Research
As one of the human sciences, ethnomusicology has a particular
responsibility to deal ethically with the people and communities that work
conduct in field research in ethnomusicology is guided by the following
in the representation of oneself and one’s work.
of relationships based on informed consent, rights of privacy and
confidentiality, and mutual respect.
to other cultures’ and individuals’ ethical values.
to proprietary concerns regarding recorded materials, photographs, and
of the connection between proprietary concerns and economic interests,
as well as anticipation of future conflicts that may be caused by one’s
acknowledge that the responsibilities of field research extend beyond the
fieldwork setting and often involve a long-term commitment to the rights
and concerns of field consultants and their communities.
acknowledge that field research may create or contribute to the basic
conditions for future unanticipated, possibly exploitative, uses of
recordings and other documentation. They recognize responsibility for
their part in these processes and seek ways to prevent and/or address
misuse of such materials when appropriate.
recognize the need to be informed regarding copyright and other laws
pertaining to the ownership of intellectual and cultural property and to
be aware of the potential protections and liabilities of contractual
arrangements dealing with depositing, licensing, and distributing musical
sound and audiovisual recordings.
Ethnomusicologists acknowledge their responsibility to share research data
and findings through publication via various media, and, in these
endeavors, to continue to maintain confidentiality agreements as well as
give credit to consultants, colleagues, students, and others where
accept their role as educators in both formal and informal teaching and
training settings and, in their teaching, endeavor to include information
about and discussion of ethical issues, particularly regarding field
accept the necessity of preparing students and trainees to make informed
judgments regarding ethical matters in field situations, by making sure
they acquire sufficient knowledge to understand the social, cultural,
political, economic, and legal realities of the communities in which they
plan to work, as well as the potential impact of the processes.