Protecting courageous immigrants who share their stories

Source: The Washington Post

Current extremism and xenophobia enabled by President Donald Trump has put many honest people in danger. The United States is a very unique place where these people from all over the world have come together to create an amalgamated culture. This culture thrives on the notion that ideas, themes, symbols, and any other foundational elements of culture are allowed to freely mesh into, and become part of, the existing culture.

When looking to do an ethnography on how immigrants imagine themselves as a part of American culture, I must take the dynamics of this current situation into account. This atmosphere has drastically effected the flow and raw ability to have a transparent conversation with selected participants. If someone is constantly afraid of whether there is a possibility that their freedom in this country is being jeopardized by saying something to the wrong person, how do you create that comfortable environment that allows that person to express how they feel?

Source: pinterest

That is what I will achieve through my interview process. My goal is to foster an understanding that any information provided to me will remain 100% anonymous, and not potentially incriminate them in any way. Using a guideline from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), on protecting confidentiality and anonymity, I am able to understand the work that must get done at all stages of the interview process.

“Confidentiality pertains to the treatment of information that an individual has disclosed in a relationship of trust and with the expectation that it will not be divulged to others without permission in ways that are inconsistent with the understanding of the original disclosure.”- (UC Irvine)

The early stages of the interview process will involve taking what the University of California at Irvine (UC Irvine) calls beneficent actions. These are acts they define as actions, “taken to help prevent or remove harms or to improve the situation of others.” This will be the genesis of allowing the interviewee to be completely open and transparent with their answers. This will include defining the steps I will take in to keep the information relayed to me confidential.

The interview itself will revolve around the methodology used for capturing the conversation. For example whether I record the conversation or take notes. Plus, most importantly are the questions I am asking. When talking about interviewing subjects for something like an ethnography, you must try your hardest to make it as much as a conversation as an interview. Any sense of a manufactured interaction will inhibit the subject from giving answers with depth.


Questions asked must be open-ended and allow the subject to answer in as much complex information as possible. The questions will be in a “question bank” that I will create beforehand. This bank of questions will give me 3 main categories of information; background about the subject, background about their understanding of my topic, and then, finally, their views on my topic and how it relates to them. As Pierre Bourdieu does in his work Jonquil Street, I must allow the conversation to flow and when asking questions try to help the subject expand on their answers and give depth and context to what they initially said. But, also keeping the conversation within the framework of my research. Sometimes this will require me to simultaneously guide the conversation to a new question so as to not get too far off topic.

Finally, following the interviews I must reiterate to my subjects the precautions I will take to keep their information privatized. I will be sure to keep their names and other identifying details that they may have disseminated in our conversation out of my final product.

When doing work like ethnographies interviews are vitally important. Concurrently, the way of going about interviews, especially with sensitive material is equally important.