Today, the one thing that I was dreading happened. My previous research plan and my data regarding certain EU nationals and their migration to Britain was discussed, and after some silence the inevitable question was finally uttered by one of my supervisors. ‘What about Brexit?’. Pardon me for inserting a few expletives to the text in the rest of the post, the way.
I do not mind the data collection, and I certainly do not mind the change in my research time scales. I acknowledge that the situation we have the pleasure of living is is politically and socially traumatic, historical and exhilaration. Analytically, this really is a one-in-a-lifetime experience. However, I have been avoiding this inevitable factor in my research for an obvious reason – it hits too close to home.
I am, as I have said several times, one of those pesky EU migrants to Britain. I do not have children, I work and always have, I am educated and more often than not I am not clocked as a foreigner. But like every EU-born person – and a hell of a lot of British people – there has been a feeling of what I can only describe as fear after the EU referendum vote. God forbid you try to discuss the matter with someone or on a public forum, and some.. person will inevitably tell you to fuck off back home. Which I intend to. You know, after taking the tram or the the bus. And after I graduate I might fuck off to another country, thank you very much, because the perk of an education is the way it can take you nearly everywhere. That’s the thing people – it’s a wide world out there and it’s full of adventure.
Anyway, moving swiftly on, there is a real risk in doing research that is emotional. People and guidebooks talk a lot about harm to the research participant, and in some ways the responsibility of the researcher to make sure their research assistants do not suffer any harm. But there seems to be a certain silence regarding how it feels like doing research that is traumatic.
I have so far been able to distance myself from my research because although EU migrants have been mentioned, the focus has been on two groups that are not ones I belong to. But my focus is about to change, and I intend to look at data that does talk about people like me. No, scrap that. It talks about me. It makes presumptions about me, my intellect, my language skills. At the same time, I acknowledge constantly that I have a huge amount of white privilege, the privilege of passing. I should not feel like I am under a threat, yet I do. And there is a real risk that this feeling will increase as I do my research further, read my revised data and really engage with what the press is saying. I already know there is one particular journalist that I hope will get a severe food poisoning from prawn cocktail – I am not prine to interpersonal violence but do think some people deserve a bad case of diarrhea. And yes, obviously that topic made me think of this fantastic video:
ANYWAY – to use those capital letters the Daily Express seems to love – it really will be an interesting and potentially a very unpleasant journey into research that I will start. My supervisors have advised me to take time away from the topic because I have to live in the world as it is, as well as analyse my data and collect it. And in the mean time I need to maybe look into the ethics of research and how can you cope with research that is potentially very harmful to your own sanity.