Doing Ethnography in a Hostile Environment: The Case of a Mexico Community

Abstract

This case study focuses on my personal experiences of doing ethnography of Mexican community members dealing with drug trafficking. The case contains chiefly methodological reflections over a half-year postdoctoral ethnographic study, as well as my previous ethnographic projects carried out in the Ecuadorian community of Limoncocha and in Polish juvenile detention centers. I discuss the problem of some of the ethical issues connected with researcher involvement in daily activities with participants. Researcher actions undertaken in a field environment may require considerable effort in adjusting one’s image (auto-presentation work) to an audience’s assumptions and expectations. I also discuss my direct experiences with collecting and analyzing qualitative data to better understand the social conditions and drug-trafficking activities of community members. Data for the case study were collected using in-depth interviews, overt participant observations, and visual data.

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