For REALM, I am hoping to collect around 50 long interviews. These will be a mix of interviews with people who know me from the past and whose migration stories I already know, and new people who are willing to speak with me.
I want to hear from anyone, from any community, any status, who has something to say about my main interest for this project:
apart from the economic angle, what else does migration mean in your life and the lives of your family and community?
I’m not a journalist, but a university researcher, and I have been working since 1989 in Kerala, and in the Gulf, and writing about people’s lives. By training I am a social anthropologist.
Social anthropology is a field of study based in a method – participant-observation supplemented by interviews – and a format – ethnography, which means ‘writing about culture’.
Anthropologists are bound by a strict code of ethics, of which the main one is: do no harm. We ask for ‘informed consent’ (which means you must agree and understand what you are agreeing to) from all the people whose stories we collect. When we write up those stories, we anonymise people’s names and sometimes also the places, so that people cannot be identified (unless they want to be and they specifically ask us to keep their real name and location).
It works like this: in my early work, you can read about a place I call ‘Valiyagramam’; any Malayali will get the joke here, and only a few people will know exactly where that place really was. Somebody named ‘Rajan’ in my writing may actually be named ‘Sunil’. We discuss what level of pseudonym or anonymisation you yourself would want.
My main question is to find out how life compares for you in India and in the Gulf, and what aspects of Gulf life apart from economic benefit play into your decision to migrate, what job to take up, which part of the Gulf to live and work in.
Questions we are interested in for this project, for the wider REALM initiative, include things like:
- What does the Gulf mean to you, besides an income?
- What do you notice as major differences between Gulf life and life in Kerala?
- Are there aspects of your life in the Gulf which you especially appreciate and cannot enjoy in Kerala?
- Are there aspects of your life in Kerala that you feel happy to leave behind when you are in the Gulf?
- What would be important for you, in order for you to feel that you were having a good life or a life worth living? Apart from income, what else is important?
If you would like to read something I have written about Kerala, click here
If you would like to read some of my academic ethnography, click here:
I have given many public talks about different aspects of my work with migrants from Kerala to the Gulf. Public education and input to policy is important to the REALM team. Here is a video of me talking about some of my work.