Negotiated positionalities and ethical considerations of fieldwork on migration: Interviewing the interviewer

  • Kara E Dempsey University of North Carolina - Appalachian State University
Keywords: Migration, Europe, ethics, asylum seeker, interviewing


The ethics of the interview process is an essential part of empirical field research with migrants, especially when the work involves individuals who are in a partially vulnerable situation. The unprecedented numbers of migrants who recently tried and/or succeeded in entering Europe now find themselves extremely vulnerable within its borders. Research involving these migrants is particularly challenging, as it needs to take into account migrant susceptibility while conducting field research. This paper discusses a research method that aims to disrupt the asymmetrical power hierarchies that exist between researcher and interviewee by allowing the research subject the opportunity to interview the interviewer about her personal life as well as national perceptions and discourses. By negotiating the power and performative agency of the interview process, this method worked to transfer some of the power of the researcher to the participant and diminish the constitutive violence of interviewing. By sharing some of the vulnerabilities of an interview, this method resulted in an increased number of interviewees, generated enthusiastic participation, and enriched conversations. This methodology can be effective in assuring participation and quality of information gathered in a variety of difficult research environments. 

Author Biography

Kara E Dempsey, University of North Carolina - Appalachian State University

Assistant Professor

Department of Geography and Planning

How to Cite
Dempsey, Kara. 2018. “Negotiated Positionalities and Ethical Considerations of Fieldwork on Migration: Interviewing the Interviewer”. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 17 (1), 88-108.