Chapter 19: Using Qualitative Research Methods in Migration Studies: A Case Study of Asylum Seekers Fleeing Gender-based Persecution
Connie Oxford This chapter outlines the strengths and limitations of using qualitative research methods in migration studies. Its focus is a case study of asylum seekers who sought refuge in the United States from gender-based persecution. Gender-based persecution includes harm such as female circumcision, domestic violence, rape, coercive family planning, forced marriage, honor killings, and repressive social norms. In this chapter, I draw from my fieldwork experiences. I discuss the research design and how the research questions were formed, entrée into the field, which qualitative methods were used in various settings and which ones were not and why, and the challenges of working with vulnerable populations.1 The research for this project was done in Los Angeles, California from 2001–03 and in New York City, New York from 2009–10. The qualitative methods used in this study were in-depth interviews with asylees, immigration officials, such as asylum officers and immigration judges, immigration attorneys, immigrant service providers, and human rights organization employees and activists; observations of immigration court asylum hearings; participant observation with immigrant service organizations and human rights groups; and content analysis of documents such as asylum applications. The interviews and observations of immigration court hearings from New York City provide comparative data, a valuable feature for understanding migration that is uncommon in qualitative studies in general. In this chapter, I discuss how qualitative methods reveal the nuances of how geographic location affects the process of seeking asylum in the United States from gender-based harm. The culmination of the...
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