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Ethical dilemmas and challenges in ethnographic migration research

Martha Montero-Sieburth (Social Sciences, Amsterdam University College, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 2 July 2020

Issue publication date: 14 July 2020

413

Abstract

Purpose

Argued is the need for: (1) a clearer interpretation of procedural ethics guidelines; (2) the identification and development of ethical field case study models which can be incorporated into university ethics teaching; (3) an understanding of the vulnerabilities of researchers and participants as reflected in the researchers' positionality and reflexivity and (4) ethnographic monitoring as a participant-friendly and participatory ethics methodology.

Design/methodology/approach

This article, drawn from the author's four-decade trajectory of collective ethnographic research, addresses the ethical challenges and dilemmas encountered by researchers when conducting ethnographic research, particularly with vulnerable migrant women and youth.

Findings

The author addresses dilemmas in field research resulting from different interpretations of ethics and emphasizes the need for researchers to be critically aware of their own vulnerabilities and those of migrants to avoid unethical practices in validating the context(s), language(s), culture and political landscape of their study.

Research limitations/implications

The author presents case studies from the US and the Netherlands, underlining her positionality and reflexivity and revisits Dell Hymes' ethnographic monitoring approach as a participant-friendly, bottom-up methodology which enables researchers to co-construct knowledge with participants and leads to participatory ethics.

Practical implications

She presents case studies from the US and the Netherlands underlining her positionality and reflexivity and revisits Dell Hymes’ ethnographic monitoring approach as a participant-friendly, bottom up methodology which enables researchers to co-construct knowledge with participants and engage in participatory ethics.

Social implications

Finally, she proposes guidelines for the ethical conduct of research with migrant populations that contribute to the broader methodological debates currently taking place in qualitative migration research.

Originality/value

Expected from this reading is the legacy that as a qualitative migration researcher one can after 4 decades of research leave behind as caveats and considerations in working with vulnerable migrants and the ethical dilemmas and challenges that need to be overcome.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

1) American Educational Research Association provided funds under the Education Research Service Project in 2014-2016 for studies of the second generation Mexican Dutch youth.2) Stichting Cosmicus in the Netherlands provided research funds for a study of instructional practices and perspectives of Turkish Dutch and Moroccan Dutch students at a high school during 2008-2009.3) The Dominican Institute at CUNY provided funds for a quantitative and qualitative study of Dominicans and their social cultural adaptation in the Canary Islands, Spain during 2007-2008.

Citation

Montero-Sieburth, M. (2020), "Ethical dilemmas and challenges in ethnographic migration research", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 281-291. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRJ-12-2019-0100

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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