Doing Qualitative Research with Migrants as a Native Citizen: Reflections from Spain
In order to look for new ways of evaluating immigration policies, I started research based on direct observations and qualitative interviews within the Oficinas de Extranjeros—the Spanish Offices for Immigration. I soon realised that my position as a researcher in this context was controversial, related to the fact that I was a Spanish citizen among foreigners, in a place where the only Spanish citizens were policemen or civil servants. I reflected upon this divide and the way in which I was, I felt, being perceived as part of the "institution": as a middle-class Spanish citizen with little "obviously" in common with the immigrants I sought to research. Reflecting on this led me to test a number of research "strategies" in an attempt to break through the insider/outsider barriers between migrant and non-migrant. The paper will reflect upon these strategies, and more generally, it will review the difficulties and dilemmas of becoming an insider (a friend) whilst beginning as an obvious outsider (a stranger).
qualitative methods; direct observation; social interview; reflexivity; immigration; policy analysis