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Trust, nuance, and care: Advantages and challenges of repeat qualitative interviews

Most methodological discussions about the pros and cons of repeat interviews fall within qualitative longitudinal literature and are premised on project designs with relatively long intervals between encounters. Less attention has been paid to the practice and ethics of repeat interviewing as a stand-alone method, that does not follow participants long-term, but instead conducts several interviews over a short period of time. This article is based on interviews and research logs from a project in which over 350 incarcerated persons in Latin America were interviewed. We evaluate the advantages and shortcomings of repeat interviewing, in this case, three sessions with each participant with up to a week in between sessions. We find that repeat interviewing increases trust and rapport, contributes to nuanced data, generates reflexivity, and ensures more ethical research by making it easier for researchers to care for participants. Yet the method also has the disadvantages of demanding a significant investment of resources, the risk of losing participants, and on occasion, the emotional challenge of breaking strong bonds when researchers and participants part ways. We argue that the advantages of repeat interviews exceed the shortcomings, but ethical concerns added to the cost in time, energy, and money might at times proscribe the method.


Rich scholar, poor scholar: inequalities in research capacity, “knowledge” abysses, and the value of unconventional approaches to research

The dominance of modern rationality in knowledge production implies that the distribution of intellectual capital highly depends on the capacity to gather representative data and generate generalizable theses. Furthermore, as research becomes more formalized and dominated by large funding schemes, intellectual capital allocation is increasingly associated with high economic, labor force and institutional power. This phenomenon has consequences at the global level. As the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has documented, there are significant disparities between countries in research capacities, with a marked difference between “core” countries with semi-monopolies over sanctioned knowledge production and “peripheral” states primarily used as data mines. The core–periphery divide in research capacity brings about what decolonial theorists call knowledge abysses: the widespread idea that core countries are the ultimate knowledge producers and thus the legitimate guides in humanity’s road to “progress.” In that context, the democratization of knowledge and the prevention of neo-colonial dynamics require the development of cheaper and more accessible ways of collecting representative data. In this article, we make a call for innovations in methods that can serve to overcome this, and we illustrate possible avenues for achieving sound research without incurring high financial costs by describing and discussing our experiences in researching narco-violence in Colombia and prostitution in Russia with what we call the “taxi method.”

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