Cultural "Insiders" and the Issue of Positionality in Qualitative Migration Research: Moving "Across" and Moving "Along" Researcher-Participant Divides


  • Deianira Ganga Brunel University
  • Sam Scott University of Sheffield



positionality, migration, qualitative, interview, insider


Positionality has, to-date, been conceptualised by social scientists as a central component in the process of qualitative (and to an extent quantitative) data collection. This paper intends to build upon this conceptualisation by reflecting upon the influence that class and generation can have on qualitative migration research. Specifically, the authors argue that being insiders in the social interview is much more complex and multi-faceted than usually recognised. They also claim that, to a large extent, interviewing within one's own "cultural" community—as an insider—affords the researcher a degree of social proximity that, paradoxically, increases awareness amongst both researcher and participant of the social divisions that exist between them. The authors will use the case of an Italian researcher interviewing Italian migrants in Nottingham (UK) and a British researcher interviewing British migrants in Paris (France) to illustrate this. In doing so they will first highlight the way in which researchers may "move-up" socio-economically when interviewing, but will also stress that whilst such movement is possible—through strategies of constructing rapport—a certain power imbalance is inevitable. Second, the authors will highlight, through reference to notions of the adopted insider and impartial observer, the way in which interviewers can (at least partially) "move across" generational divides within the migrant community. This methodological reflection is designed to aid and improve future research conducted from "inside" the migrant community. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs060379


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Author Biographies

Deianira Ganga, Brunel University

Deianira GANGA completed her Ph.D. in 2005 on Italian migrants in Nottingham. Since then she has been working for the Learning and Teaching Development Unit at Brunel University (London) on an ESF project entitled Ethnicity, Education and Employment. Deianira is particularly interested in migration, ethnicity and the inter-generational transmission of identity. She is an advocate of the use of in-depth qualitative fieldwork, inter-disciplinary approaches, and comparative analysis in migration research. This is evidenced by her role as founder member of the HERMES (European Researchers for Migration and Ethnic Studies, networks and her editorial position on the "Journal of Migration Letters" (

Sam Scott, University of Sheffield

Sam SCOTT completed his Ph.D. in 2003 on skilled European migration. Since then he has worked as a research assistant on a variety of projects looking broadly at the issues of European social exclusion and migration/minority communities. For the past eighteen-months Sam has taught European social geography at the University of Sheffield. Recent publications have appeared in Populations, Space and Place, and the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.




How to Cite

Ganga, D., & Scott, S. (2006). Cultural "Insiders" and the Issue of Positionality in Qualitative Migration Research: Moving "Across" and Moving "Along" Researcher-Participant Divides. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(3).