Meelopen met de regievoerders | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 25, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1385-1535
  • E-ISSN: 1875-7324


‘Going along’ with caseworkers? About negotiating boundaries between participating in and observing undocumented migrants’ return trajectories in the Netherlands

This paper deals with reflections on conducting participant observation among a group of migration officials in the Netherlands who are in charge of ensuring the voluntary and forced departure of undocumented migrants. In particular, I discuss the many difficulties associated with the ethnographer’s dual role of becoming both an insider, while still remaining a critical outsider. The essay first of all touches upon issues of how to (if at all) gain a value-free outlook of the lifeworld of highly politicized officials, especially if they seem to hold ideologies contradictory to your own. At the same time, the paper discusses the dangers of becoming an insider, particularly if this means losing sight of one’s critical viewpoint. I discuss some contentious moments during my fieldwork and analysis of data, which almost led me to going native. The paper argues for the importance of detachment from your informants and ends with some suggestions on how to deal with the aforementioned issues


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