The Technologies of Normalization and Self: Thinking About IRBs and Extrinsic Research Ethics With Foucault

Document Type


Publication Date


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



In this article, the authors discuss the technologies of normalization and self in relation to ethics and the problematization of extrinsic research ethics. They argue that institutional review boards (IRBs) and other similar institutional mechanisms promote extrinsic forms of ethics that are exemplified through institutionalized structures such as (a) the Belmont Report, (b) IRB protocol, (c) informed consent, and (d) localized interpretations of IRB rules and regulations. However, at the same time, institutional normalization enables researchers and participants to construct themselves as ethically responsible participants through resistance and critical reflection. Such “care of the self” and critical awareness of dominant discourses and regimes of power and knowledge are essential to the development and practice of research that is ethical, free, and responsive. Finally, the authors conclude that the discussions about researchers' ethical decision making and freedom of choice need to be separate from discussions related to researchers' compliance, duties, and institutional responsibilities.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Qualitative Inquiry, v. 13, issue 8, p. 1075-1094