• Ethics as a moral duty: proposing an integrated ethics framework for migration research

      Opfermann, Lena S. (Oxford University Press, 2022-07-19)
      This article interrogates the assumptions and moral values underlying social research ethics frameworks and practices applicable to migration studies. Based on a review of forced migration literature and on empirical observations I identify three tiers of research ethics that generally guide ethical conduct in this field: Procedural, relational and reciprocal ethics. I suggest that these tiers are traditionally conceptualised as a hierarchy in which certain ethical demands are considered morally superior to others. Looking at each of the three tiers the article shows that procedural and relational ethics demands are often based on unclear moral values and problematic notions of migrants’ vulnerability. To address this shortcoming, I draw on deontological ethics and on Levinas’ notion of unconditional responsibility to argue that our duty as researchers is based on our particular relationship with our research subjects rather than on their status as migrants. Moving away from a hierarchical understanding of research ethics I then propose an integrated ethics framework that allows researchers to conceptualise and address the various ethical demands in an interconnected and holistic way. This framework presents an original contribution to research ethics discourses and practice in migration studies and other fields of social inquiry with a political and moral ambition such as human rights, social work and childhood studies.
    • 'If you can't beat them, be them!' - everyday experiences and 'performative agency' among undocumented migrant youth in South Africa

      Opfermann, Lena S.; Durham University (Taylor and Francis, 2019-07-22)
      This article explores the challenges and coping strategies of undocumented migrant youth in Cape Town, South Africa. Drawing on a theatre-based case study conducted with a core group of 10 participants the article shows firstly that participants’ lives are affected by emotional, legal and practical challenges such as loneliness, discrimination and fear. Secondly, the article develops the concept of ‘performative agency’ to illustrate how participants cope with and contest their challenges. Specifically, the article shows that the young people's theatrical performances draw on stereotypical notions of vulnerability and victimhood as a means to denounce the discrimination and oppression they experience. In public interactions with others, by contrast, the young migrants use performative agency to emphasise their strengths and positive attributes, thereby enhancing their integration in a hostile environment. The insights provided by this study can help strengthen policy responses to better support undocumented migrant youth in South Africa and elsewhere.
    • Language, trust and transformation: exploring theatre as a research method with migrant youth

      Opfermann, Lena S.; Durham University (Taylor and Francis, 2019-07-29)
      This article explores the challenges and benefits of using theatre as a research method. It questions certain claims and assumptions underlying Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed and more recent literature on theatre-based research. In particular, it investigates the notion that theatre enables participants to address issues of oppression and create socio-political change. Based on a case study with migrant youth in South Africa, the article firstly argues that certain challenges specific to working with migrants such as differing language skills and a lack of trust may impede genuine dialogic exchange as envisioned by Boal. Secondly, it shows how these challenges can be overcome by incorporating writing exercises, video recordings and embodied communication. Finally, the article argues that theatre-based research can indeed create individual transformations in the form of increased displays of ownership, confidence and hope. These insights contribute to the growing literature on theatre-based research and will be useful for others using similar arts-based approaches.
    • Precarity, mobility and the city: introduction to the special issue

      Bakonyi, Jutta; Kappler, Stefanie; Nag, Eva-Maria; Opfermann, Lena S.; ; Durham University; University of Bedfordshire (Wiley, 2021-04-23)
      Drawing on empirically rich and theoretically grounded case studies, the articles in this issue explore ways in which global governmental processes affect mobility and, similarly, how seemingly local movements impact upon global processes.
    • Testing the “triple imperative”: A drama-based exploration of migrant children’s views

      Opfermann, Lena S.; University of Bedfordshire (Taylor & Francis, 2015-10-16)
      In an effort to address challenges associated with unaccompanied and undocumented migrant children in South Africa, civil society and academics have been using a rights-based approach that largely overlooks the children’s own perspectives. In response to this shortcoming, this study explored the views of migrant children living in Cape Town. By applying a drama-based methodology, the study aimed to follow calls for a “triple imperative” in forced migration studies. This imperative demands that research with so-called vulnerable groups should comply with enhanced ethics standards in order to produce policy relevant academic knowledge. The article develops two main arguments. First, the study has shown that many migrant children lack a stable reference person and therefore see themselves in charge of their own lives, yet that the lack of a legal document hinders them from fulfilling their responsibilities and pursue their goals. Following from this I argue that documenting migrant children not only fulfills the purpose of providing a legal right to stay, but also constitutes a form of stability and recognition of the children’s dig- nity. Secondly, I propose that drama-based research fulfills enhanced ethics standards, as it results in a form of “social reciprocity” that contributes to participants’ wellbe- ing. Since drama-based research also produces policy relevant results, I conclude that this methodology meets the “triple imperative.”