Exchange to change June 2016 | Page 11

interview actions, words and agendas shape the research, which is the reason why I prefer to call them participants instead of respondents or informants. I did not conduct participatory research in the classic sense of the term, but I think that eventually, the research is shaped like it is because of their direct and indirect participation in it. And as long as you’re open and honest about the research you’re doing, and aware of possible biases and your responsibility towards the people you’re working with, allowing research participants to shape research is very enriching and rewarding. Especially if it’s about delicate topics like migrant family life. I think I was very lucky I got to enjoy strong relationships with a very diverse group of people and learn so much from them. How did you get to know these participants? Nanneke: By using different entry points and snowball sampling. I contacted a number of people through formal agencies but I got to know most of my participants by moving around the village. Although I always made sure the people I encountered knew our contact was part of official research, our relationship usually developed in relatively natural and informal ways. They would also re-direct me to family members, friends and neighbours. This helped me develop a solid network and also made me feel at home. Do you still have contact with them? Nanneke: Yes, especially with the local research coordinator who has become a close friend. Throughout the research I also tried to stay in touch with other key participants, but as I describe in the thesis, maintaining these connections is often more difficult than it seems, both emotionally and practically. Especially during the last phases of my PhD I have not always been able to follow the research participants as much as I would have liked. But I’m now in the process of getting back in touch with a number of them. What was the best, most beautiful moment of your PhD? Nanneke: I think the best moments happened when I suddenly started to understand key clues from my research material, talking this through with participants, face-toface or by phone, and realizing it made some sense what I was doing. Also, I experienced some of the best moments when I re-visited the participants or called them after a long time and they still made me feel welcome. And what was the worst, most difficult moment? Nanneke: I’ve actually enjoyed the whole PhD journey immensely, so it’s difficult to think of a worst moment! I guess the less enjoyable moments were related to feelings of being overwhelmed, by academic standards and competitiveness and your own insecurities, thinking you will never be able to live up to all the expectations or will suddenly ‘get caught’ for not being a ‘real’ PhD candidate… But I think the colleagues at IOB have always been very supportive and effective in putting the more annoying questions into perspective. To conclude, can you tell us the most important thing you have learned during your time at IOB? Nanneke: What I’ve learned, is that it is possible to make a living out of the things that you’re really passionate about. I think it is a real luxury to be able to follow your interests, link them with relevant social issues and have a chance to share your insights and doubts with colleagues across the world. Exchange to change June 2016 11