Sunday, 16 March 2014

First Thoughts

10 March 2014

My field research is about to begin. This is the essence of my PhD. My field research is the reason I got funding, and it was the impetus for this whole endeavour. Without it, this project would be meaningless.

What is Europe? What is the EU? For most academics, asylum seekers would not be the first place to start. In fact, I often feel as though academics are uninterested in field research. Indiana Jones remains a fiction, real only to TV audiences. Real researchers sit in front of a screen. But that is not the world. I want to see the world through the eyes of immigrants, a group voiceless and displaced, yet a group with so much potential power. They are the proof that the EU is not a closed system. The laboratory conditions that Haas speaks of are an illusion.

First problem I am facing: recruitment. When I submitted the application for ethical approval, the procedure seemed so smooth. Now I know that what I wrote in that application was non-sense. I was hoping to simply write the Italian, Bulgarian and Greek authorities, getting a response a couple of hours later. This was a total fallacy. The problem is, that for now I cannot think of a better recruitment procedure. Of course, I have written NGOs. In fact, I have written about thirty NGOs. Given their values and ideals, one would expect them to be just as enthusiastic about my project as me, but it turns out that all I have gotten is a single response from UNHCR Italy. I was very pleased when I read their message, hoping that this would lead me somewhere, but it turns out that what I am left with is a list of email addresses that I have to go through.

Sicily houses asylum seekers in three different locations: Caltinissetto, Trapani und Ragusa. I have written the prefetturas of all three locations, without getting any responses so far. If they did respond, my research could proceed. I would acquire authorisation to enter refugee camps, could speak to the local staff, and I could interview asylum seekers. Finally I could see through the lens that makes this dissertation distinct from anything anyone has read so far.

Right now I think of my trips to Sicily and Thrace as holidays. Sure, I know that what I’ll hear will terrify me. When I went to Malta I often thought how incredibly lucky I had been to grow up in a wealthy area. (Since then I have become far more sensitive.) Nevertheless, although we are currently blessed with temperatures reaching up to the low twenties, I can’t wait to see the land of Commissario Montalbano. Probably the reality of the situation I am investigating will hit me really hard when I arrive. It really is about time for me to book my flights…

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