(Shared) ethnicity in ethnographic research on clandestine and informal practices in the migrant and ethnic minority economy: Methodological and ethical challenges

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Abstract

This article addresses the methodological and ethical challenges of ethnographic
research on sensitive topics such as clandestine practices in the migrant and
ethnic minority economy. Drawing on related criminological and sociology of
deviance literature I draw on my experiences of insider-ethnographic research in
the Chinese migrant and ethnic minority economy in the Netherlands and Romania
to demonstrate how stigmas related to race/ethnicity and clandestine practices can
strongly shape access, rapport and researcher’s positionality in the field. Research
participants’ concerns about these stigmas also revealed ethical questions on how
to report on clandestine and informal practices without contributing to further
stigmatisation and racialisation. At the same time, my experiences show that whether
clandestine practices and race/ethnicity are considered sensitive topics is an emergent
issue. In the Netherlands, due to active enforcement of clandestine practices in the
migrant and ethnic minority economy, these practices were a sensitive topic of
inquiry. In Romania, by contrast, clandestine practices were not treated as sensitive
subject matter as these were normalised by research participants and broader
Romanian society, due to a lack of active enforcement and criminalisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-103
Number of pages16
JournalWork Organisation, Labour and Globalisation
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2022

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