GIGA Doctoral Researcher Indi-Carolina Kryg has been conducting field research in Mexico. For her dissertation titled "Civil Society Organizations and Latin American Immigrated People's Political Agency in Mexico" she makes use of a combined approach of a qualitative case study, semi-structured interviews, and participation observations. In this interview, Indi gives us insights into her experiences and tips for research in the field.
Indi-Carolina Kryg has been conducting field research in Mexico. For her dissertation titled "Civil Society and Latin American Immigrated People's Political Agency in Mexico" she uses a combined approach of a qualitative case study, semi-structured interviews, and participation observations.
What are you currently doing on site and how are things going?
For my dissertation, I travelled to Monterrey and Mexico City to conduct both interviews with immigrated people from El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia, and Venezuela and participant observations with Mexican civil society organizations. Although it was a difficult and stressful context to conduct research in Monterrey due to a terrible drought and high temperatures, many COVID-19 cases (of course, I had to get my first Corona infection in the second week), and increasing inflation and insecurity for women, I could meet many great people who shared their experiences with me. The civil society organizations I contacted were also very welcoming to my research project and opened their doors to me. Now I am in Mexico City and things are more relaxed. I have running water, the temperature is comfortable, and I can get anywhere cheaply, quickly, and safely by public transportation. Furthermore, I was able to conduct many interesting interviews and I am in the process of doing participant observations with two organizations.
What worked well in your field research? What did not work well?
I used the "cold call" technique to contact people from Venezuela and Colombia by publishing a post in two closed Facebook groups. When I asked for interview partners, I received a lot of positive answers from the people. So, this technique worked very well in my case. In the case of contacting and doing interviews with immigrated people with the help of civil society organizations, I was not so successful in Monterrey. While I could not find interview partners through the first organization, with the second organization I had the problem of only being able to conduct the interviews at the organization's facility. The challenge was twofold. First, the neighborhood was not safe to conduct the interview elsewhere, and second, people did not have much time to meet in another location. I eventually found out that all the premises were not only under video surveillance (which I knew) but that the cameras also had microphones to listen in on conversations. Not at all a place for a private conversation.
Which moment during your field research was the most memorable so far?
The most memorable moment was when I helped a Venezuelan organization distribute food, drinks, clothing, medicine, and baby strollers to people in a caravan who were stuck in the Monterrey bus station on their way to the United States. Even though they had a temporal residence permit and thus could move freely through Mexico, the Coahuila government banned them from passing through on buses and sent them to Monterrey. At the bus center there were pregnant women, families with young children, men and women of all ages coming from several countries who had been sleeping on the floor for days. I heard that this organization had been coming here for six days to help people with the most basic things. A woman coordinated the group and donations. Her commitment to these people was impressive. That afternoon, the group decided to continue the journey on foot and the caravan made its way through the streets. I will never forget this moment when they set off with determination and shouts of courage despite exhaustion and waved joyfully to us.
What tips/advice would you give other Doctoral Researchers who plan to conduct field research?
Be ready to not have everything going according to plan and to be confronted with situations for which you were not prepared. It makes sense to prepare your field work as much as possible, but it helps to be open to changes and spontaneous encounters. Preparation includes familiarizing yourself with the climate and holidays of the place. This will spare you negative surprises in the field. Also, an institutional connection is helpful. Being a guest researcher at CIESAS not only gave me access to a library and desk, but also a supervisor who helped me to connect with other scientists in my field. Your safety is essential and that is why it is important to take precautions. It helped me a lot to constantly let people know where I was and even go to the places accompanied from time to time. Never forget that the people you want to interview have commitments and therefore often do not have much time. It is important to allow time to make contact and schedule the meeting in the field. I also found it helpful to friendly ask several times via e-mail or WhatsApp (main communication tool in Mexico) for a suitable day for the interview and to offer an online conversation as an alternative to a face-to-face meeting. My final piece of advice: Try to minimize your interviewee’s expenses, or even better, compensate your interviewee. For example, in face-to-face meetings, I invited people to eat or drink with me and/or paid for their bus or metro ticket. From my point of view, it is not only an act of kindness but also an ethical issue when we work especially with groups in vulnerable situations.