Researching Youth Ethnicities in East London and in Paris Banlieues: Methodological Challenges and Explorations
The paper starts with positionality and how I dealt methodologically, ethically and personally with the power relationships involved in the research. As a middleclass white French female student I was perceived in opposite ways during fieldwork: a white rich middle class Parisian in Bondy; a strange, lost, and possibly East European young woman in Newham.
It then shows how both the willing to reduce symbolic violence and the choice for a constructionist approach defined my research design and the structure of my interviews. Two methods especially helped me investigate intersectionality while decreasing symbolic violence: self-portrait and mental maps. This fed a reflexion over the use of categories.
At last, I discuss how each method involved specific power relationships and revealed - produced - different aspects of ethnicity: individual semi-structured interviews fostered the presentation of particular yet universal selves who rejected categorization and stressed a distinctiveness based on intimate experiences; focus groups [carried out every other week in secondary schools with the same participants for one or two semesters] politicized discourses and built collective actors defending group identities based on Us/Them dichotomies. At last, observations disclosed autonomous, playful, situational and instrumental aspects of ethnicity and discrepancies between attitudes and practices.