The Sense and Nonsense in Planning Ahead: The Unanticipated Turns in Ethnographies on Crime and Drug Dealing

  • Sandra M. BuceriusEmail author


It is generally assumed that detailed planning of the research process and anticipating remote, possible scenarios will lead to success with our research studies and potentially minimize risks. Detailed planning is often required by research ethics boards, dissertation committees, and potential funding agencies. However, in this chapter, I argue that good ethnographic studies often depend on happenstance and unanticipated turns. Much of what happens in ethnographic work is based on chance encounters and circumstances we cannot predict beforehand. In this chapter, I describe some of the ways my own 5-year-long ethnographic work on second-generation immigrant drug dealers in Germany took unexpected turns and did not play out the way I, or my professors, had anticipated. Ultimately, I argue that while preparation is obviously useful, in reality much of what will happen in ethnographic research depends on trial and error and unfolds in unexpected ways.


Ethnography Drug dealers Crime Research process Immigrants 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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