Jan 232014

This session is hosted by the Canadian Political Science Association and cross-listed with the Canadian Sociological Association.

Organizer: Mireille Paquet (Concordia)
Commentator: Laura Madokoro (Columbia and McGill)

Schedule and Location: Tuesday, May 27 3:15pm Location to be finalized

After decades of focusing on the push and pull factors explaining migrations, both political science and sociology have started to pay more attention to the state and its relations to migrations. Doing so, analysts have focused on the constraints on states’ capacities to limit migration, the impacts of partisan configurations on national policies and the differences in states’ naturalization policies, immigrant integration policies and responses to diversity. This illuminating body of work was characterized by methodological nationalism and also by a tendency to see the state a single, monolithic actor. In contrast, recent work in migration studies has started to take a peak inside the state, with a keen interest for the work of public servants, for dynamics of policy implementation, for the impact of policy networks, for the role of policy learning and diffusion between public administrations and for the impact of meso – or micro- level relationships between governments and individuals. Mobilizing insights from sociology, political science, anthropology, history and sometimes geography, these new accounts aim to open the black box of the state. Such work represents several opportunities and challenges when it comes to the approaches as well as methods to employ. This panel will regroup researchers currently active in research that aim to understand the working of the migration state from inside. In addition to presenting and discussing methodological as well as theoretical directions from their current research, panelists will discuss ethical and practical challenges encountered during their fieldwork and directions for further research.

Presenters and abstracts:

“Being invisible at a research site that is hidden from sight”, doing politically sensitive research on refugee decision makers

Sule Tomkinson (Université de Montréal)

Most organizations operate in private settings and every job has standard procedures to get things done. More often than not, these concrete practices are in conflict with the codified ways of doing things. The researcher has to negotiate with the demanding fieldwork conditions on the go since she experiences them in situ. Organizational ethnography -from its conduct to writing process- places ethical ideals that are often impossible to fully respond such as being straightforward, friendly and likeable to research participants. In a naïve way, the researcher is also supposed to like her research participants. But how does one negotiate the conditions as they arise on the field that are in conflict with idealistic ways of doing research? And how does one present the disliked research participants in a realistic and grounded way? Mainstream ethnography encourages the researcher to go beyond what is visible but also suppresses her from candidly sharing her methodological and ethical dilemmas in her writing. This article discusses these questions by giving concrete examples from 20 months of ethnographic research on refugee determination process at Montreal branch of Immigration and Refugee Board.


Gatekeepers, Sponsors and ‘Studying Up’: Accessing Canada’s Overseas Visa


Vic Satzewich (McMaster University)

This paper will focus on the methodological challenges associated with studying decision making at Canada’s overseas visa offices. Based on field work at eleven overseas visa offices, the discussion will revolve around the challenges of gaining access to visa offices and officers and the role that informal sponsors play in facilitating access. The paper will also focus on some of the ethical and interpretive challenges associated with studying the discretionary decision making process of those who have the power to approve or refuse applications to travel to, live and work in Canada. Scrutinizing Naturalization : Which Data? Which Methodologies? Marie-Michèle Sauvageau (University of Ottawa) and Elke Winter (University of Ottawa) Naturalization is a legal and voluntary process through which previously non-citizens are afforded with the privileges that the state guarantees its citizenry. The rules for naturalization are closely related to the state’s ideological-symbolic representations of who and what the national community is supposed to be. Rules are then established stipulating how applicants for citizenship will be able to access this status. In the name of “revalorizing citizenship”, the Canadian government has recently made a number of changes to the ways in which citizenship is to be interpreted and to be attributed to newcomers. In order to examine Canada’s new naturalization regime, its ideological foundations and practical impacts, over the past couple of years, we have used a variety of methodologies, such as historic and contemporary policy analysis, thematic content analysis, and semi-structured interviews. We have investigated legal rules, policy directions and bureaucratic implementation, mainstream media representations and NGO’s and new citizens’ perspectives on the matter. In this paper, we will focus on two of the implemented changes: the release of new citizenship study guide and a more difficult citizenship test. We will present the methodologies used to examine these changes, and reflect upon their usefulness and limitations for the study of naturalization. This paper also provides us with the opportunity to highlight some of the difficulties that we faced, to point to some potentially contradictory results, and to (re)consider the position of the researcher facing multiple fieldworks and types of data. Public servants as heroes: process-tracing and elite interviews in a politically sensitive context


Mireille Paquet (Concordia)

This paper will focus on the experience of interviewing public servants in a politically sensitive context. It reflects on elite interviews (n=71) conducted with public servants between 2010 and 2013 as part of a broader research project on provinces and immigration in Canada. Elite interviews, when combined with other methods of qualitative data collection (Davies 2001), provide a powerful means to reconstruct lessvisible sequences and processes leading to specific outcomes (Tansey 2007). During this fieldwork, immigration became a politically sensitive issue in several of the provinces understudy and federal-provincial relations related to immigration became increasingly tense. This change in the political context had considerable impacts on the unfolding and on the content of interviews While most of the literature on elite interviews has focused on interviewing strategies (questions and preparation) for researchers, this paper will add to existing insight by discussing three issues. First, strategies of access and ways of convincing respondents to participate in research, especially when the political context makes that participation sensitive. Two, interviewing methods in a politically tense context. Thirds, ways in which public servants’ roles can be translated into on immigration policy and politics theory, using interview data

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