Since the 2015 ‘refugee crisis’, the lens of researchers has been increasingly focused upon asylum seekers and refugees around the world. Nevertheless, working in the field of refugee studies poses several methodological and data challenges. For example, there is a relative paucity of detailed statistical data on refugee stocks, which has led to researchers favouring the collection of personal, qualitative stories from refugee populations. Although this produces a substantial volume of rich narratives, these can be geographically and temporally specific. The collection of qualitative data is also expensive, time consuming, and labour intensive. Therefore, alongside the increasing institutional and mandatory demands to deposit qualitative material in open access repositories, there is growing recognition of the value of archiving refugee accounts. There are also significant challenges in archiving refugee interview transcripts to enhance broader knowledge. In this paper, we discuss the process of archiving refugee accounts to highlight the practical and ethical challenges of depositing sensitive material. Specifically, we draw upon the archival process that was required upon completion of two Research Council funded projects in the UK. This involved the preparation and depositing of interview transcripts from over 100 refugees. Key challenges that arose included the need to uphold interviewees’ confidentiality, the process of anonymisation, and determining the level of access to grant future users. Subsequent issues have involved responding to data requests, permitting selective release of data, and stipulating conditions for release. We then reflect more widely upon the tensions we encountered between procedural and micro-ethics, namely the difference between decisions based upon rules rather than judgement. In doing so, we consider key processes and highlight best practice to be adopted in the future archival of refugee stories.
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Bulletin of Sociological Methodology
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Stewart, E., & Shaffer, M. (2021). The Ethical and Practical Challenges of Archiving Refugee Accounts: Reflections from Two Research Projects in the UK. Bulletin of Sociological Methodology, 150 (1), 51-69. https://doi.org/10.1177/0759106321995707