Accepted paper:

The challenges of conducting research in Swedish detention centers

Authors:

Sofia Rönnqvist (Malmö institute for studies of migration, diversity and welfare)
Karin Magnusson (Malmö University)

Paper short abstract:

This will explore the methodological challenges we encountered doing participant observations and interviews in detention centers in Sweden. The fieldwork was conducted as part of a study financed by the European Return Fund on migrants’ experience of forced return.

Paper long abstract:

This project, co-financed by the European Return Fund, focuses on four stages of the deportation process: i) the decision, ii) time spent in detention center, iii) the deportation, iv) arrival in origin country. The research follows a person-centered methodology whereby the focus is on cultural practices (how things are being done) rather than normative (how they are 'meant' to be done) in a bid to discover the migrants' experience of forced return. In this paper we will explore the methodological challenges we encountered doing participant observations and interviews in detention centers in Sweden. Firstly, there were a number of practical considerations when getting access to detention centers. Detention centers present a particular prison establishment where the migrants in Sweden on average only spend 11 days. This particular situation gave the researcher a short period of time to form a relationship/trust with the interviewees. Building a relationship was crucial since the research method requires that the migrants stay in touch with the researcher after deportation to share their experiences of the return journey and arrival. This paper will also discuss the dynamics of intimacy in the detention setting. The migrants' situation of imprisonment before their forced return puts them in an extremely vulnerable position, which also affects the researcher both emotionally and methodologically. In conclusion, this paper illuminates the specificities of research in detention centers as well as more general challenges when conducting research of imprisoned individuals.

panel P051
Prison ethnographies, research intimacies and social change