Researching Diaspora Citizenship: Reflections on Issues of Positionality and Access from a Zimbabwean Researching Zimbabweans in South Africa

  • Langton Miriyoga


In this chapter, Langton Miriyoga discusses the complexities and challenges he faced as a Zimbabwean returning to South Africa—the place where he lived for a number of years before moving to the UK to begin his doctoral research—to conduct field research. Far from the ease of access he anticipated as a Zimbabwean migrant researching Zimbabwean migrants, Miriyoga describes how his own memories of crime in the townships of Cape Town, together with the outbreaks of xenophobic violence at the time of his fieldwork, colored his research and compounded the already difficult situation of conducting research on marginalized populations.


South Africa Hidden migrants Positionality Subjectivity Bias 


  1. Abu-Lughod, J. L. (1988). Fieldwork of a Dutiful Daughter. In C. Altorki & C. F. El-Solh (Eds.), Arab Women in the Field: Studying Your Own Society (pp. 139–161). New York: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Acker, S. (2001). In/Out/Side: Positioning the Researcher in Feminist Qualitative Research (1). Resources for Feminist Research, 28(1–2), 189–210.Google Scholar
  3. Babbie, E. (2013). The Practice of Social Research (14th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.Google Scholar
  4. Bailey, K. (2008). Methods of Social Research (4th ed.). New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  5. Benoit, C., Jansson, M., Millar, A., & Phillips, R. (2005). Community-Academic Research on Hard-To-Reach Populations: Benefits and Challenges. Qualitative Health Research, 15(2), 263–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beoku-Betts, J. (1994). When Black is Not Enough: Doing Fieldwork Amongst Gullah Women. The National Women’s Studies Association Journal, 6(3), 413–433.Google Scholar
  7. Bhavnani, K. (1988). Empowerment and Social Research: Some Comments. Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse, 8(1–2), 41–50.Google Scholar
  8. Billo, E., & Hiemstra, N. (2013). Mediating Messiness: Expanding Ideas of Flexibility, Reflexivity, and Embodiment in Fieldwork. Gender, Place and Culture, 20(3), 313–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bloch, A. (2007). Methodological Challenges for National and Multi-sited Comparative Survey Research. Journal of Refugee Studies, 20(2), 230–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cerwonka, A., & Malkki, L. H. (2007). Improvising Theory: Process and Temporality in Ethnographic Fieldwork. Chicago: Chicago University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crush, J. (2008). South Africa: Policy in the Face of Xenophobia, Migration Policy Institute. Available at Accessed January 15, 2018.
  12. Davies, S. (2001). Philosophical Perspectives on Music’s Expressiveness. In P. A. Juslin & J. A. Slobada (Eds.), Music and Emotion: Theory and Research (pp. 23–44). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Denscombe, M. (2010). Ground Rules for Social Research: Guidelines for Good Practice. Berkshire: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Denscombe, M. (2014). The Good Research Guide: For Small-Scale Social Research Projects (5th ed.). Maindenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Dwyer, C., & Limb, M. (Eds.). (2001). Qualitative Methodologies for Geographers: Issues and Debates. London: Arnold.Google Scholar
  16. Eichler, M. (1988). Non-Sexist Research Methods: A Practical Guide. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Ellis, C., & Flaherty, M. (1992). An Agenda for the Interpretation of Lived Experience. In C. Ellis & M. Flaherty (Eds.), Investigating Subjectivity: Research on Lived Experience (pp. 1–16). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  18. Fanow, M. M., & Cook, J. A. (1991). Back to the Future: A Look at the Second Wave of Feminist Epistemology and Methodology. In M. M. Fanow & J. A. Cook (Eds.), Beyond Methodology: Feminist Scholarship As Lived Research (pp. 1–15). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Finley, S. (2008). Arts-based Research. In G. Knowles & A. Cole (Eds.), Handbook of the Arts in Qualitative Research: Perspectives, Methodologies, Examples and Issues. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  20. Gregory, I. (2003). Ethics in Research. London: Continuum Publications.Google Scholar
  21. Hall, R. (2008). Applied Social Research: Planning, Designing and Conducting Real-World Research. South Yarra: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  22. Harding, S. (1987). Whose Science, Whose Knowledge? Thinking from Women’s Lives. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Harding, S. (2015). Objectivity and Diversity: Another Logic of Scientific Research. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hill-Collins, P. (1990). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman.Google Scholar
  25. Ite, U. (1997). Home, Abroad, Home: The Challenges of Postgraduate Fieldwork “at home”. In E. Robson & K. Willis (Eds.), Postgraduate Fieldwork in Developing Areas: A Rough Guide (pp. 75–84). London: RGS-IBS.Google Scholar
  26. Jacobsen, K., & Landau, L. B. (2003). Dual Imperative in Refugee Research: Some Methodological and Ethical Considerations in Social Science Research on Forced Migration. Disasters, 27(3), 185–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kara, H. (2015). Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide. Bristol: Policy Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kilgore, J. (2011). We Are All Zimbabweans Now: A Novel. Athens: Ohio University Press.Google Scholar
  29. King, N., & Horrocks, C. (2010). Interviews in Qualitative Research. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  30. Lal, J. (1996). Situating Locations: The Politics of Self, Identity, and “Other” in Loving and Writing the Text. In D. Wolf (Ed.), Feminist Dilemmas in Fieldwork (pp. 185–214). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  31. Letherby, G., Scott, J., & Williams, M. (2013). Objectivity and Subjectivity in Social Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Liamputtong, P. (2007). Researching the Vulnerable: A Guide to Sensitive Research Methods. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lipton, M. (1977). Why Poor People Stay Poor: Urban Bias in World Development. London: Temple Smith.Google Scholar
  34. Melrose, M. (2002). Labour Pains. International Journal Social Research Methodology, 5(4), 333–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Merriam, S. B., Johnson-Bailey, J., Lee, M.-Y., Kee, Y., Ntseane, G., & Muhamad, M. (2001). Power and Positionality: Negotiating Insider/Outsider Status Within and Across Cultures. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 20(5), 405–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mertens, D. M. (2009). Transformative Research and Evaluation. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  37. Mertens, D. M., & Ginsberg, P. E. (2009). Frontiers in Social Research Ethics: Fertile Ground for Evoluton. In P. E. Ginsberg & D. M. Mertens (Eds.), The Handbook of Social Research Ethics (pp. 580–613). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Miller, J., & Glassner, B. (1997). The ‘Inside’ and the ‘Outside’: Finding Realities in Interviews. In D. Silverman (Ed.), Qualitative Research: Theory, Method and Practice (pp. 99–112). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  39. Minh-ha, T. (1989). Woman, Native, Other: Writing Post-coloniality and Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Mandiyanike, D. (2009). The Dilemma of Conducting Research Back in Your Own Country as a Returning Student—Reflections of Research Fieldwork in Zimbabwe. Area, 41(1), 64–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mullings, B. (1999). Insider or Outsider, Both or Neither: Some Dilemmas of Interviewing in a Cross-Cultural Setting. Geoforum, 30, 337–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Parrado, E., Flippen, C. A., & Metzger McQuiston, C. (2005). Migration and Relationship Power Among Mexican Women. Demography, 42, 347–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pasura, D. (2014). African Transnational Diasporas: Fractured Communities and Plural Identities of Zimbabweans in Britain. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  44. Patai, D. (1991). US Academic and Third World Women: Is Ethical Research Possible? In S. Gluck Berger & D. Patai (Eds.), Women’s Words: The Feminist Practice of Oral History (pp. 137–153). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  45. Polzer, T. (2012). Together Apart: Migration, Integration and Spatialized Identities in South African Border Villages. Geoforum, 43(3), 561–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rabinowitz, V., & Weseen, S. (2001). Power, Politics, and the Qualitative/Quantitative Debates in Psychology. In D. L. Tolman & M. Brydon-Miller (Eds.), Qualitative Studies in Psychology: From Subjects to Subjectivities: A Handbook of Interpretive and Participatory Methods (pp. 12–28). New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Raftopolous, B., & Savage, T. (Eds.). (2004). Zimbabwe: Injustice and Political Reconciliation. Cape Town: Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.Google Scholar
  48. Shepherd, G., Parsonage, M., & Scharf, T. (2010). Social Inclusion: Research and Evidence-Based Practice. In J. Boardman, A. Currie, H. Killaspy, & G. Mezey (Eds.), Social Inclusion and Mental Health (pp. 279–294). London: Royal College of Psychiatrists.Google Scholar
  49. Sidaway, J. (1992). In Other Worlds: On the Politics of Research by “First World” Geographers in the “Third World”. Area, 24(4), 403–408.Google Scholar
  50. Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonising Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed.Google Scholar
  51. Smith, D. (2015). Johannesburg’s Foreign Shop Owners Close Up Early Amid Threats of Violence, The Guardian. Available at Accessed January 10, 2018.
  52. Tevera, D. (1999). Do They Need Ivy in Africa? Ruminations of an African Geographer Trained Abroad. In D. Simon & A. Narman (Eds.), Development as Theory and Practice (pp. 134–145). Harlow: Addison Wesley and Longman.Google Scholar
  53. Visser, G. (2000). In Other Worlds: On the Politics of Research in a Transforming South Africa. Area, 32, 231–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Williams, B. (1996). Skinfolk, Not Kinfolk: Comparative Reflections of the Identity of Participant Observation in Two Field Situations. In D. Wolf (Ed.), Feminist Dilemmas in Fieldwork. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  55. Zuckerman, A. (1991). Doing Political Science: An Introduction to Political Analysis. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Langton Miriyoga
    • 1
  1. 1.Royal Holloway, University of LondonEghamUK

Personalised recommendations