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“I'm afraid”: the cultural challenges in conducting ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in Myanmar

Alvin Hoi-Chun Hung (Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford , Oxford, UK)
Aung Myo Min ( Pakokku University , Pakokku, Myanmar)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 30 July 2020

Issue publication date: 30 July 2020

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to highlight the cultural issues and difficulties encountered when conducting ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in Myanmar and to discuss the measures to overcome such challenges. It aims to provide insight for foreign researchers seeking to collect rich, meaningful and reliable data while establishing fruitful relationship with Burmese participants.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper draws on results from a research on cross-cultural dispute resolution in a Chinese-invested enterprise in Myanmar. The authors reflect on their fieldwork experience to present examples of cultural challenges, as well as the strategies used to deal with those challenges.

Findings

This paper finds that when conducting ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in Myanmar, researchers should take into consideration “anade” – an important Burmese social convention, perceived power distance between researchers and Burmese participants, roles of cross-cultural interpreters and possibility of cultural stereotypes, especially in a multicultural site. Measures need to be taken to adjust fieldwork arrangement and interview style, reduce perceived power distance and address the impact of prevalent stereotypes. Furthermore, researchers should properly conduct training and discussion sessions with Burmese interpreters to ensure they provide accurate yet culturally informed interpretation.

Originality/value

The cultural challenges in conducting ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in Myanmar remain under-explored. This paper addresses the knowledge gap and discusses various Myanmar-specific cultural issues that await researchers.

Keywords

Citation

Hung, A.H.-C. and Min, A.M. (2020), "“I'm afraid”: the cultural challenges in conducting ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in Myanmar", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 113-123. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRJ-07-2020-0074

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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