First week of Moscow field work

The first week for the MISHA team in Moscow is over. As we have enjoyed the 1st of May sunshine, we are also taking a look at the experience so far.

This has been an intensive week, both in terms of collection of interview material and as a learning experience. We have met migrants of different ages, professions, experience of life in Russia, and financial situation. Interview situations are often demanding for various reasons.We are discovering that certain questions, words and expressions are ambiguous or sensitive to the people we meet. This in itself is rich material, of course, since it gives us a possibility to investigate our key concepts from a cultural point of view.

We are also becoming more aware of our own limitations and try to develop in the process, as much as it is possible. Getting connected with our main informants is an art form in itself. The approach has to be adjusted in every case. The practical conditions make research also an emotional experience, since not everything can be controlled. We have to reflect on our expectations, our ways of working and the material continuously.

Does a researcher of migration and shadow economy become an activist? This is one of the main ethical questions of our work and something that we also had to think about during this first week.  From the beginning of our project, we chose to remain neutral and keep an academic distance to our topic. Hence, we are not promoting policies or political perspectives. Our original attempt was to look at Russia in a global context which includes a possibility to make comparisons.  Such an approach is not easy, but we believe that in the end it provides important insights which might otherwise be overlooked.