Researching Racism: Reflections on Different Methodological Approaches to Recording People's Experiences of Racism

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 9:42 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Bethan HARRIES , Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
Laia BECARES , University of Manchester, United Kingdom
This paper combines two contrasting and complementing methodologies to explore young people’s experiences of racism in everyday life. The paper will reflect on how the use of qualitative and quantitative methods can lead us to different understandings of experienced racism. The first method uses ethnography and non-structured interviews which do not directly ask respondents to talk about their experiences of racism. The second method examines data from the Understanding Society (UK) survey, which records people’s responses to specific questions about their own and others’ experiences of racism.

What emerged is that in the qualitative project, participants found it difficult to name racism and denied that quite explicit forms of racism they had experienced was ‘really’ racism. In the survey, respondents recorded widespread racism which they and/or people they knew had experienced. This paper considers some of the implications of these apparently divergent findings. The use of ready-structured questions is helpful in alerting us to the persisting prevalence of racism. This is facilitated when survey respondents are not actively encouraged to reflect on the personal and are able to externalize their experiences. The qualitative study on the other hand highlights how confronting racism can be difficult. The paper argues the process of interview can in itself help reveal a great deal about the nature of different forms of racism. The paper also indicates that this has worrying implications for the ways in which racism can be resisted in everyday life when it can be so difficult to talk about.