Refugees Doing Biography. Intercultural and Multilingual Interview Settings Enriching Data
The language of the interview brings challenges but also chances for the future development of biographical research. Due to my fluent knowledge of Russian the interviewees could choose and even switch the language. The translation requires effort and the involvement of a professional translator for passages selected for sequential analyses, but also enriches data: Interviewees fluent in German switched to Russian when delicate issues as e.g. dishonor connected to their ethnic background were tackled.
The paper takes into account intercultural aspects concerning the biographical self-presentation towards a non-migrant vis-à-vis. Clearly, the data – and as a result the practices of doing biography – would differ greatly if the interviewer were a co-ethnic. Female interviewees used self-thematization for a counterstatement of the image of the suppressed Muslim woman – still reproduced within biographic research. They showed me photos of themselves – which were included as artefacts in situational maps in the research process – to explain to me the point in their biography when they decided to wear a headscarf, stressing that they were not raised in a religious way and could not resort to religious knowledge within the family. The interviewees used parts of their narration for self-presentations as well-integrated migrants or argumentative defenses regarding religious practices – e.g. explaining that arranged marriage is rejected by Islam but practiced by Chechens who cling to traditional norms.