RESCuE at European Sociological Association
26 August 2016.
Access to Disadvantaged Groups in a Cross-national Comparative Framework Juan Carlos REVILLA (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain)/Markus PROMBERGER (IAB, Germany)/María Paz MARTÍN (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain)/Araceli SERRANO (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain)
People exposed to or threatened by poverty, unemployment or other socioeconomic risks of social exclusion are a classical hard to reach population for social research for several reasons. In the first place, they may be fearing stigmatization or ‘otherness , or, to be more precise, a ‘doubling’ of stigmatization not only by their social environment and institutions, but also by social researchers, what is strongly resented as they are often trying hard to at least superficially keep their social position. Second, there is the exposure to social control and suspicion, which at least morally, if not institutionally may go hand in hand with receiving transfer incomes or welfare benefits. Third, they may experience the shame of having less and therefore being less in a society, where the availability of money and commodities creates a major part of the social belonging, complying with Georg Simmel’s double definition of poverty – having less than one’s peers, and being a client of the welfare state. Fourth, they are suffering from the popular image of inactive welfare dependency that in fact applies just for quite a small part of the poverty population, as most of them are actively trying to compensate or ease hardship through a widespread set of practices, including various informal activities which are judged quite differently by society, peer groups or the organizations of the welfare state. Therefore, research on socioeconomically vulnerable populations poses major methodological challenges. It is not just that they are hard to reach, but that they are also quite heterogeneous, as long as the population in situation of hardship increasingly is coming from more diverse backgrounds, living circumstances, biographies, experiences and practices within different cultural settings. This may lead to severe, and difficult to measure, selectivity in any way of access one may choose, what might lead to blank spots or to an inappropriate coverage of certain vulnerable groups.
The thesis we want to work out in this contribution is that those challenges can – in qualitative research – be handled far better, if there is not only variation, flexibility and openness for inductive and procedural decisions when the units of observation are selected and identified, but also, if access ways and techniques of data collection are also undergoing contrastive variation alongside. Our thesis will be demonstrated on the fieldwork diaries and reports of a cross national qualitative study on “Patterns of Resilience during Socioeconomic Crises among Households in Europe”, called RESCuE, in which the ways of living of more than 200 Households are investigated through visual and interview methods. The project comprises research teams from Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, United Kingdom, Poland, Finland, Turkey and Germany, and is funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme.