Politicized and Depoliticized Ethnicities, Power Relations and Temporality: Insights to Outsider Research from Comparative and Transnational Fieldwork

Bahar Baser, Mari Toivanen

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    17 Citations (Scopus)
    162 Downloads (Pure)


    The insider and outsider positions in migration studies have conventionally been approached in terms of ethnic or national belonging. Recently scholars have problematized the essentialist approaches to these roles by arguing for the inclusion of multiple intersecting social locations that are at play in the constitution of researcher positionality. Less attention has been paid, however, on how different ethnicities are constructed and how they can become politicized and depoliticized at particular moments during the research process. This paper discusses the fieldwork experiences of two “apparent outsiders” to the studied diaspora community. We show how a researcher’s assumed ethnicity can at times become politicized and depoliticized, and constructed in relation to other social categories. Drawing from our experiences in multi-sited and comparative ethnographic fieldwork on the Kurdish diaspora, we also show how our assumed ethnicities as “Turkish” and “Finnish” shifted within the actual empirical field, being relevant in one moment and less so in another. We argue that rather than taking insider and outsider positions as a starting-point to understand researcher positionality, scholars need to look at particular moments of insiderness and outsiderness to grasp how the researcher’s assumed ethnicity becomes politicized and depoliticized during ethnographic fieldwork.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2067-2084
    Number of pages18
    JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
    Issue number11
    Early online date14 Jul 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Bibliographical note

    This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Ethnic
    and Racial Studies, on 14/06/2017 available
    online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/01419870.2017.1348530
    Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright
    owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study,
    without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively
    from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The
    content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium
    without the formal permission of the copyright holders.


    • ethnicity
    • positionality
    • reflexivity
    • outside research
    • transnationalism
    • diaspora


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