Accepted Paper:

Skepticism to being researched - how may it guide us in decolonizing research?  
María Hernández Carretero (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores skepticism to migration research encountered during fieldwork, bringing it to the center of analysis in order to explore what it highlights in terms of methodological approaches and epistemological frameworks to be decolonized within Africanist migration research.

Paper long abstract:

As a Spanish academic conducting research on Senegalese migration to Spain/Europe, I have at times encountered skepticism to my presence and purpose among the people I wished to study - prospective migrants and relatives of migrants in Senegal, or migrants themselves (some of them without residence permits) in Spain. Who was sending me to do this work? Who would benefit from my research? Was I some kind of police informer? As a beginner researcher, I was both eager to gain my interlocutors' trust and to be transparent about my motives and objectives. I saw this skepticism as an obstacle to be overcome and a healthy reminder of the need to fully explain the mechanisms - including funding - underlying my research. It was after all not surprising that my curiosity would seem uncomfortable in a context where people sought out strategies to circumvent the closure of the Europe-Africa borderlands. Although some of my interlocutors at times referred to slavery, colonialism and postcolonial conditions in discussions about current migration dynamics, I did not center my analysis on those. In this paper, I wish to redress this gap by redirecting the analysis to the aforementioned skepticism itself. I explore what it highlights about the research endeavour itself - including the interaction between researcher and "researched" - in the context of wider colonial and postcolonial relationships and experiences of exploitation, and reflect on what such skepticism may teach us about the possibilities for researching migration in ways that avoid reproducing longstanding inequalities.

Panel Anth31
Decolonising Africanist migration research? [CRG AMMODI]