Negotiating Asymmetries: The (De-)Thematization of Giving and Receiving in Ethnographic Relationships in Forced Migration Research

  • Ingmar Zalewski Universität Kassel
Keywords: ethnography, relationship, gift exchange, shame, refugees, migration, reflexivity


In this article, I address the genesis and shape of my ethnographic doctoral project on processes of social participation among young male refugees from Syria. I focus on the shaping of my own relationship with the refugees participating in my fieldwork. On the one hand, using a reflexive approach, I reconstruct the mechanisms through which the relational approach is constituted as a key aspect of fieldwork that follows its own logic. On the other hand, based on excerpts from the empirical material, I outline the characteristics of the relational dynamics of a particular case, which I treat, following Marcel MAUSS (1990 [1925]), as a relationship of gift exchange: as an example of giving and receiving. Drawing on the obligation to reciprocate a gift, the mixing of person and thing in exchanging gifts, the creation of debt, and the temporal aspect of a gift, I disclose situations in which I experienced shame. The presented case may be indicative of what takes place in constellations involving volunteers and young refugees, as well as in the professional work relationships of educational staff.


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Author Biography

Ingmar Zalewski, Universität Kassel

Ingmar ZALEWSKI (M. Sc.) promoviert an der Universität Kassel am Lehrstuhl für Sozialwissenschaftliche Methodologie qualitativ-rekonstruktiver Forschung bei Prof. Dr. Ulrike KISSMANN. Er ist Lehrbeauftragter des Fachgebiets für partizipative Ansätze in der Sozialforschung, Grounded-Theory-Methodologie und Ethnografie. Seine Forschung wird durch ein Promotionsstipendium der Hans-Böckler-Stiftung finanziert.

How to Cite
Zalewski, I. (2022). Negotiating Asymmetries: The (De-)Thematization of Giving and Receiving in Ethnographic Relationships in Forced Migration Research. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 23(1).
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