ArticlePDF Available

Methodological challenges of traditional and virtual anthropological fieldwork in migrant integration research: the case of Chinese-Hungarian interethnic partner relationships

Authors:
Methodological Challenges of Traditional and Virtual
Anthropological Fieldwork in Migrant Integration Research: the
Case of Chinese-Hungarian Interethnic Partner Relationships
Nóra Kovács
Hungarian Academy of Sciences Centre for Social Sciences, Institute for Minority Studies
kovacs.nora@tk.mta.hu
Abstract: The paper is based on a piece of anthropological research on Chinese-
Hungarian mixed partner relationships. This qualitative research on the intimate
relations between members of a highly transnational migrant population and
members of local Hungarian society posed a number of methodological
challenges. A substantial segment of the data was collected through ethnographic
fieldwork where the otherwise non existent ethnographic field (i.e. no community
formed by mixed couples; the lack of a geographical or an online locality) was
defined by the initially formulated research questions. Fieldwork was
complemented by the collection of diverse data from computer mediated
communication carried out by members of Chinese-Hungarian couples and their
family members, however, combining information available in online space with
data gathered through face-to-face interaction has proved to be problematic.
Keywords: migration, Chinese-Hungarian intermarriage, research methodology,
fieldwork in fragmented field, computer mediated qualitative data
https://doi.org/10.24193/RJPS.2017.1.03
© Centre for Population Studies
36 • Romanian Journal of Population Studies • Vol. XI, No. 1
1. Introduction
This paper is based on a piece of anthropological research on Chinese-
Hungarian mixed partner relationships.3 Focusing on the role of the different
social and cultural backgrounds in the lives of couples, the research project
addressed a series of questions concerning mixed partner relationships as a
global migration related social phenomenon, as an aspect of first generation
Chinese migrants’ presence in Hungary, and also as a channel of Chinese
migrants’ integration.4 This experience based paper reflects on everyday
challenges and practical matters that emerged during anthropological
fieldwork.
There are different ways the normative concept of integration is
treated in social sciences discussing migration related phenomena. It often
refers to the structural integration of migrants through the labour market,
citizenship, participation in the education system, language acquisition,
intermarriage, to mention some examples. In the following discussion
integration is thought of and interpreted as a series of events that happen
through personal interaction in intimate relations. More specifically, it refers to
personal interactions as narrated by Chinese and Hungarian individuals.
Although I had equal interest in the everyday practices of the lives of mixed
couples, I gained systematic access mostly to what they said about their shared
lives and not what they actually did. This paper is concerned with the
methodological challenges of research on the specific reality of Chinese-
Hungarian interethnic partnerships from a Hungarian point of view.
It is unknown exactly how many Hungarians are married to or cohabit
with Hungarians and even less how many Chinese and Hungarian persons date
each other. There is no relevant statistical information available on Chinese-
Hungarian marriages or cohabitations. Data on the marriages between Chinese
and Hungarian citizens are not gathered by a central office; these figures are
recorded separately in district registry books. Based on informal
communication with registrars of Budapest districts number 6, 7 and 10 there
were about one or two such marriages per year in the period between 2009 and
2013, including inconveniently also marriages between Chinese citizens and
ethnic Chinese migrants turned Hungarian citizens. Several relationships
encountered during fieldwork were not registered marriages, whereas the
majority of those who formalised their relationship got married outside
3 The work on mixed couples formed part of a thematically wider research project on the
intimate relations between Chinese migrants and Hungarians. Besides mixed partner relations,
childcare arrangements between Chinese families and Hungarian carers were concentrated on.
4 Some results were already published. See Kovács (2015, 2016).
Transnational Family Research • 37
Hungary, in China or in a third country. Official marriage records may also
include Chinese-Hungarian sham marriages which, interesting a phenomenon
as they may be, were not included in this project.5 What fieldwork data showed
was that the earliest Chinese-Hungarian relationships could be dated back to
the early 1990s, so, with a single exception, not even the longest-lived
relationships could have lasted for more than two and a half decades.
Although initially I wanted to interview married couples and their
families, later dating, cohabiting, divorced and separated persons were also
approached, since their experiences contributed largely to the understanding
of the everyday dynamics of interethnic partner relationships. This widening
of the original focus is reflected in the interchangeable use of the terms
marriage and partner relationship throughout the text.
2. Highlights of the Chinese migrant context in Hungary
Although Hungary cannot be considered a typical immigration country, it has
been affected by several waves of inward migration for the last three decades.
Most migrants were ethnic Hungarians arriving from neighbouring countries,
but the largest visible group was that of the Chinese migrants exceeding forty
thousand by the mid-1990s. Challenging a task as it was, they were targeted by
several research projects, and demographic, social, economic, educational,
gender and identity aspects of Chinese migrants’ presence in Hungary were
already studied (Nyíri 2006, 2010a, 2010b; Várhalmi 2009; Beck 2015; Kovács
2015, 2016; Kovács & Melegh 2010; Szabó 2009; Feischmidt & Nyíri 2006).
Chinese migrants arrived in massive numbers from the early 1990s, and by the
mid-2010s their number fell to fifteen thousand.6 During this period their
principle business model has changed from shoes and clothes retail to local and
regional wholesale of a wider range of Chinese products, several Chinese
businesses growing large and becoming very successful economically along the
way. As their demographic characteristics, as potential actors of the Hungarian
marriage market of the 1990s are concerned, there were almost as many
women as men among them mostly in their twenties and thirties, some arriving
alone; a relatively high proportion with some form of tertiary education.
Literature hinted at the lack of the norm of endogamy among Chinese
migrants in Hungary (Nyíri 2010b:153)
5 I did not meet members of Chinese-Hungarian sham marriages, that is, marriages of
convenience entered into solely for the benefits of married status. Throughout the fieldwork,
several Chinese as well as Hungarian persons commented on their existence. See also the
section on culturally embedded concepts.
6 Based on informed estimates of representatives of the Chinese community in Hungary.
38 • Romanian Journal of Population Studies • Vol. XI, No. 1
The group of Chinese migrant entrepreneurs in Hungary have operated their
businesses on a transnational basis, and lead a transnational way of life with
persons and resources in constant flow between Hungary and China, and
sometimes also other locations in the European region or the Americas. The
way Chinese migrants and migrant entrepreneurs and Chinese businesses
operate in Hungary was most recently discussed by Várhalmi (2009, 2013).
Many first-generation Chinese migrants were disinclined to take out
energy from their businesses to invest in learning Hungarian leaving the task
of translation for the family business to the school age second generation.
They established a way of life and arranged their businesses in a way that
learning the local language was not essential for them. Signals from local
society may have contributed to this. Studies have indicated that Hungarians
manifested negative attitudes towards Chinese migrants (Örkény & Székelyi
2010; Szilassy 2006).
My fieldwork has supported this with many personal ethnographic
details, with events ranging from discrimination at kindergarten and school, or
in sports associations, through verbal offence and verbal aggression to
occasional physical insult. Verbal attacks in public spaces were often reported
to have targeted mixed marriage children and youth, or Hungarian women
accompanying Chinese-looking children or Chinese men. A Hungarian father
related the episode of travelling with his four-year-old Chinese-Hungarian son
using the public transport in Budapest. Trying to work their way off the
packed tram at the rush hour he stepped down first reaching out a hand to
help his son get off. It was in this moment when a young man waiting to get
on the tram yelled at the boy in a hoarse voice ‘Hurry up your ass, yellow
motherfucker!’, leaving the Hungarian father dumb and helpless. Most such
Hungarian offenders in my field experience were reported to have been
teenage boys or young men.
Several mixed marriage parents commented on similar experiences of
their children and some of them chose the Chinese-Hungarian bilingual school
as an escape route from negative experiences and isolation at school. Lacking
space to go into details of relevant ethnographic experience about this here, let
me also note that there are a set of cultural spaces in Budapest such as Chinese
tea houses, traditional Chinese sports associations, Mandarin and calligraphy
courses, centres for traditional Chinese medicine, top quality Chinese
restaurants where interactions between Chinese migrants and a select group of
Hungarians are defined by the appreciation of and an exotic longing for the
rich Chinese cultural traditions these institutions represent.
Transnational Family Research • 39
3. Research questions, research aims
As it was mentioned above the majority of Chinese migrants who arrived in
the 1990s became transnational economy based entrepreneurs. They are called
‘typical migrants’ throughout the text. The plan of the research was originally
driven by the assumption (Nyíri 2006: 44) that few interethnic partner
relationships were formed by ‘typical Chinese migrants’, and Hungarians,
compared to the relative size of this migrant population. One of the research
questions was what could explain the supposedly low incidence.
It was another research aim to study and understand the everyday
reality of living in a Chinese-Hungarian mixed partner relationship in Hungary
and to reveal how the cultural differences between partners’ socialization
contributed to the inner dynamics of these bonds. Are Chinese-Hungarian
partner relationships more or less likely to be persistent in time than similar
bonds between Hungarians? Are these bonds more or less likely to be
satisfactory for the individuals who constitute them than ethnically
homogamous relationships?
Are there cultural factors that have a substantial influence on the
stability of Chinese-Hungarian mixed partnerships? Does stability in this
respect have a culturally conditioned gender component to it? In what way do
members of couples perceive and reflect on the fact that their partner’s
emotions and their forms of expression are culturally conditioned?
Another aim of this research was to find out whether these bonds
shared certain features allowing for categorisation and a Chinese-Hungarian
relationship typology. Transnationalism, a fundamental aspect of the lives of
Chinese entrepreneurs based in Hungary was an important focus of research.
Do all members of Chinese-Hungarian mixed couples and families become
transnational the same way as their Chinese member is likely to live a
transnational way of life? Are transnational practices in these families’ lives
connected to business models and economic success? How are transnational
practices related to individual and family language strategies? What are the
consequences of the individual and family language strategies in the couple’s or
family’s life? What was the connection between language strategies and family
members’ transnationalism? Can childcare and education strategies and
solutions be seen as fundamentally related to and part of Chinese migrants’
transnationalism? How are problems related to transnationalism negotiated in a
mixed marriage or family? Some results of the research were published
(Kovács 2015, 2016) and I would like to emphasize that important results lie in
ethnographic details. Space is limited here; nevertheless, some general findings
are referred to briefly in a simplified way. In spite of their great individual
40 • Romanian Journal of Population Studies • Vol. XI, No. 1
differences, the sample of forty couples outlined two characteristically
different types of relationships. The first type is referred to as ‘student love’
relationships, and it is characterized, most of all by closeness in educational
status. The ‘student love’ sub-group of very highly qualified couples with a
high value on the international labour market seemed even more successful
relationships. The second type is the relationship of the ‘typical Chinese
migrant’ with a larger social and often educational distance between its
members. Relationships in the former group tend to be more successful and
persistent in time, whereas the latter are considerably less persistent. Chinese-
Hungarian relationships studied in this research were more persistent in time if
the Chinese partner was female. Research confirmed literature stating that in
spite of changing Chinese family relations, Chinese family culture is very
characteristic and relatively persistent (Efron Pimentel 2000). Hungarian
partners’ fluency in Chinese and their understanding of, putting it in an
oversimplified term, Chinese ways improved prospects of a mutually
satisfactory relationship. ‘Typical migrant’ men’s spouses or children contacted
during research showed no, or only a very low degree of transnationalism.
I would also like to note that a Chinese and a Hungarian interlocutor
of the highly qualified and internationally mobile sub-group of ‘student love’
relationships pointed out that marriage and family related norms and social
practices were changing rapidly in China and the observations made in
Hungary would not necessarily hold in all segments of Chinese society.
4. Methodological challenges
The anthropological approach to the intimate relations between members of a
highly transnational migrant population and members of local Hungarian
society raised several methodological problems. Some of them were variants
of classical problems anthropologists encounter during fieldwork intertwined
with others that, compared to previous research experience with geographically
concentrated or community based anthropological fieldwork, required special
methodological attention. Bearing in mind this research framework, in the next
part of the paper the following points are going to be addressed: 1) the topic
specific definition of the ethnographic field and fieldwork; 2) the use of
written and visual sources from the digital world; 3) the epistemological value
of long term fieldwork as a research method; 4) ways of handling the lack of
information; 5) strategies to use and interpret narratives of third parties; 6)
ways of handling culturally conditioned strategies of communication,
especially that of intimacy; 7) ways of handling socioculturally embedded
concepts; 8) considerations about masking interlocutors’ identities; 9) personal
Transnational Family Research • 41
position of the researcher as a factor conditioning the type of information
accessed; and 10) the public afterlife of the ethnography. Wherever possible,
the problems are going to be presented with examples from the field.
I. The ethnographic field of Chinese Hungarian mixed partner
relationships
Data was collected through ethnographic fieldwork including interviews. At
first it was not quite clear for me where my ethnographic field lied so I
searched for it everywhere, including within my personal network and that of
friends. What the ethnographic field is, where it lies, and its borderlines were
initially unclear since mixed couples formed no communities or institutions
and they could not be tied to one particular geographical locality or localities. I
was inspired by George E. Marcus’s handling of this problematic letting the
object of study describe its field (Marcus 1995). Nevertheless, the field had to
be constructed and reconstructed in an effortful way several times. The
concept of multi-sited ethnography seemed appealing at first, however, during
the course of fieldwork I eventually preferred to describe it as fragmented (see
Nagy 2015: 46). The research-specific rules of what fell within or outside the
scope of the ethnographic field had to be modified from time to time as new
bits and pieces of information opened new paths to trace.
Looking back at the fieldwork process and tracking down its
subsequent phases, the first set of field experiences were collected through
intensive Chinese language courses taken at one of the two main authentic
Budapest language academies specialized in Mandarin Chinese, and later
through individual classes taken from a Hungarian teacher of Chinese,
throughout a period of altogether three years. My Hungarian Chinese
professor had several years of experience living and studying in Beijing and
besides cultural and historical issues of China he was also knowledgeable about
representatives of different aspects of Chinese culture in Hungary, such as
Chinese martial arts associations, Chinese medical experts, and official
representatives of the PRC in Hungary. While he was familiar with and an
enthusiast of China’s cultural, economic and scientific achievements, he also
seemed highly critical of some of their ‘purely business oriented’
representatives in Hungary, Chinese and Hungarian alike. His confronting
attitude has made him an isolated figure in a cultural field that one might label
as a ‘Chinese-Hungarian cultural encounter zone in Budapest’. With years of
experience as a foreign student at Chinese universities he gave me insights into
the beginnings and workings of one type of Chinese-Hungarian partner
relationships that later was labelled as ‘student love’. The distance he kept from
42 • Romanian Journal of Population Studies • Vol. XI, No. 1
the actors of this encounter zone also kept him outside the dense network of
trust and possible reciprocal favours to be explained further. It was only
much later that I realized how important it was to (in one way or another,
temporarily) be included in such a network, existent mostly between Chinese
migrants but also some Hungarian individuals, to obtain information for the
research I wanted to carry out. Determined to study Chinese-Hungarian mixed
marriages but having no contact with any of them I asked relatives, friends,
colleagues, and neighbours for help. It came unexpectedly from a member of
my family with a double career in business and academia.
He connected me with a second-generation Chinese man, a former
student in his late twenties, referred to here as Young Yu. Young Yu was a
close friend of one of my relatives business partners since their shared time at
university, now associate in a well-known and leading financial firm. They
encouraged me to connect Young Yu who had given his consent. We arranged
a date where Young Yu appeared accompanied by his father, wealthy and
educated Mr. Yu, owner of a very successful transnational family enterprise. As
a matter of fact Young Yu came along as his father’s translator since Mr. Yu
spoke no Hungarian. We met in a café in a shopping mall close to the Chinese
commercial district. Mr. Yu arrived prepared with a list of mixed marriages he
and his wife knew of. All his statements were supported by newspaper cuts
from local Chinese papers. He went through the case one by one and shared
some details with me. He gave me the impression that he did not want to say
more than what was included in the papers he brought me, giving at last his
general statement: there were few Chinese-Hungarian marriages, and usually
they did not work out well. We talked for two hours with the assistance of
Young Yu who did not seem involved in our conversation and kept to
translating his father’s sentences attentively. After our meeting, the father and
son proposed to show me the location of their business and offered me a ride
there and back to the shopping centre. I travelled in Young Yu’s fabulous car
and Mr. Yu took his own to show me their extensive property in the 10th
district of Budapest. They seemed proud to let me know that over two thirds
of the land and buildings I was seeing was purchased by Chinese entrepreneurs
including their family headed by Mr. Yu. After a short walk among the shops
and warehouses Young Yu drove me back to the shopping centre.
Their helpfulness was in sharp contrast with subsequent experiences of
rejection by potential interlocutors during fieldwork. Trying to make sense of
why Mr. Yu and his son helped me drew the attention to a fundamental
component of my fieldwork. Through the bond between the two trusted,
respectful and successful mutual acquaintances I temporarily became part of a
Transnational Family Research • 43
network of trust, respect and potential favours while the Yu family did not
have to give away sensitive personal information. There was only a light
violation of the norm of keeping important information from third parties on
his part: the information he gave was available publicly and he only provided
me with some extra clues.
The lack of this relatedness through trust or possible favours, or a
sudden change of the researcher’s indirect position within the network could
impede access to information that seemed to be within arm’s reach. A
Hungarian friend’s teenage son was dating the daughter of a successful
Chinese businessman married to a Hungarian woman. The mixed family lived
in an elegant villa on the Buda side and was reported to have achieved very
good economic standing through the fathers transnational trading activities. I
was eager to meet this couple since they seemed to represent the rare group of
functioning marriages between a ‘typical migrant’ man and a Hungarian
woman, with children and decades of shared experience. I talked to the wife
on the phone to arrange a date for the interview she had consented to. The
week before the date set I called her to specify location and she told me that
she could not do the interview after all. It was a couple of days later I learned
that my friend’s son broke up with her daughter, an incident that removed me
from a trusted circle of possible favours. In summary, interviews were only
made possible through some form participation in networks of friendship or
business with a hope of gaining some kind of symbolic return on possible
interlocutors’ part. A Chinese person’s reasons to cooperate in the research
cannot be interpreted without references to degrees of integration in social
networks.
And finally, I would make a remark about my personal perception of
the repeated fieldwork experience of how Chinese migrants handled time.
Whenever I had the opportunity to call a Chinese person about an interview I
was either turned down immediately, or if not, I heard that person consider
time options to meet, often making an excuse for not being able to meet that
very same day and offering the day after instead. It seemed that something that
had to be done, had to be done as soon as possible, giving a hint on how a
Chinese business person can quickly and successfully adapt to a changing
economic environment. The same attitude was reflected in remarks on Chinese
entrepreneurs’ ability to adapt quickly to changes in the economic environment
(Várhalmi 2009).
44 • Romanian Journal of Population Studies • Vol. XI, No. 1
II. Digital sources from the online world
The online world as an object or location of ethnographic fieldwork was
systematically introduced into social sciences by Christine Hine’s Virtual
Ethnography (2000) connecting computer mediated communication (see Hine
2000) with the possibility of doing ethnography research in and of the
internet.
The question of what fell within my ethnographic field became more
intense once I entered virtual space and searched for computer mediated
communication carried out by or available about members of Chinese-
Hungarian couples and their family members. The wide variety of online
sources included visual information such as publicly accessible video
recordings, photos, personal avatars as self-representations on community
media sites; personal profiles and networks on community media sites; online
documents such as entries in the online business register that were informative
of whether, for example, Hungarian spouses are at least formally included in
their Chinese partners’ businesses as local associates or not; online chat
streams on mixed coupledom; Hungarian and Chinese newspaper articles on
mixed couples’ and their children’s public activities.
Members of mixed couples are located at the intersection of two
online worlds where the lack familiarity with the written language of one
another kept up a boundary for many of them, both Chinese and Hungarian.
Some couples I succeeded in interviewing, others I did not. Even if
ethical considerations as to how these sources can legitimately be included in
research were set aside for a while, the qualitative richness raised dilemmas. I
often lacked the possibility to trace further these pieces of information and
provide them with as much context as it could be expected in traditional
fieldwork based research.
The story of an interlocutor’s relatives, a couple with a teenage
daughter who never married but cohabited on and off for a few years before
they separated definitively may offer an example. Theirs was a relationship of
the most problematic type encountered, that of a ‘typical Chinese migrant’
man with no tertiary education arriving in the 1990s from a rural area of China
who built up a prosperous transnational enterprise from scratch with his
siblings. It became quite clear that my interlocutor was in no position to
provide me with access to them. She commented that ever since the separation
the Chinese father (and his Chinese kin resident in Hungary) kept very
occasional contact with the young girl who felt abandoned and very different
in a Hungarian small-town context and who was desperate to have her Chinese
father’s attention. Being familiar with the girl’s name and town of residence I
Transnational Family Research • 45
made a Google search and found her unprotected profile on a teenage
community site. Her avatar was an East-Asian female manga character, a sad
and solitary young woman set in a hostile urban environment. Intimately
revealing as this may be about a Chinese-Hungarian mixed marriage child’s
personal identity I was confined to these pieces of information and could go
no further.
At one point during fieldwork it was not clear at all how the visually
presented and subtle information in a one hour long amateur video indexed
and openly available online and recorded at a public event involving a Chinese
man and his mixed marriage family is going to be made useful for research
purposes. The recording showed all family members at a vernissage in an art
gallery where they moved around demonstrating gestures and body language
that suggested separation between the spouses. It also showed the presence of
the Chinese man’s new Chinese partner, and presented father and children
keeping a physical distance at all times without interchanging words. This
family had been in the focus of my attention for a long time with no possibility
to make an interview before I found this recording. Fortunately, later on the
Hungarian wife agreed to a conversation and told me the story of her
marriage; she put the images I saw into words providing a context to them.
Likewise, two brief accounts in the Hungarian electronic edition of a
local Chinese online newspaper told the stories of two failed marriages
between Chinese women and Hungarian men from a Chinese point of view.
Fragmentary, short of ethnographic detail, and unclear about the womens
motifs of entering in the relationship, the two paragraphs presented the sad
fate of these bonds between Chinese wives and their Hungarian husbands as
inevitable.
A chat stream associated with the online edition of a Hungarian
womens magazine on the topic of mixed marriage provided scattered and
anonymous information, nevertheless, the comments on and experiences of
Chinese-Hungarian dating relationships emphasized certain themes, such as
the verbal aggression against Hungarian women dating Chinese men; and also
showed cases of passionate defence of Chinese migrants supported by their
work ethic.
Internet searches for the computer mediated communication of
members of Chinese and Hungarian couples brought many results which, at
the same time, showed a relatively low level of participation of these first-
generation Chinese persons on Hungarian community media sites. No
systematic study within this research project focused on this, but they seemed
to be absent from Hungarian social media sites, such as Facebook. There could
46 • Romanian Journal of Population Studies • Vol. XI, No. 1
be many reasons for this, among them the fact that Facebook cannot be used
in China where other Chinese sites such as WeChat or Weibo are popular; and
also, that using these sites requires English or Hungarian language proficiency.
Bearing in mind the often mutually limited language capacities of persons
involved in these relationships I would like to draw attention to the two the
partners’ parallel online universes separated by languages.
III. Long term anthropological fieldwork – was it worth the effort?
Long term fieldwork has been considered an indispensable anthropological
research method defining the discipline ever since Malinowksi’s pioneering
venture (Malinowski 1922) in the Trobriand Islands nearly a hundred years ago.
Anthropological reflections and theorizing about various aspects of fieldwork,
it’s epistemological value, the anthropologist’s role in the ethnography
produced and her position in the studied community have been topics at the
fore of the discipline for many decades now. There have been several crucial
attempts to re-conceptualise anthropological fieldwork shifting its focus from
simple to complex societies and from foreign worlds to that of the
anthropologist’s own, including more recently the practice and notion of
fieldwork conducted in the world of the internet. A summary published in
Hungarian by Károly Zsolt Nagy (Nagy 2015) outlines this process.
As a sociocultural anthropologist working in an interdisciplinary
academic environment surrounded by social science scholars with a different
and perhaps more economical vision of the time and other resources spent on
data collection, I felt the need to scrutinize the epistemological worth of the
extra efforts invested in fieldwork towards the understanding of the workings
of the intimate relationships between Chinese migrants and their Hungarian
partners.7 This question may as well be rephrased to ask what results other
methodologies, such as a survey type of research on Chinese-Hungarian
interethnic partner relationships would yield.
A phenomenon of similar magnitude would most likely not invite
quantitative methodology. More importantly, the people involved in these
relationships, particularly from the Chinese side, were often reluctant to
contribute, and especially so without a close friend’s recommendation, making
other potential research methodologies unviable.
Trying to assess a migration related phenomenon surrounded by
predominantly negative preconceptions in Hungary may easily lead to the
formulation and use of labels that Elizabeth Durham (2016) refers to as
7 Time after time anthropologist may also experience that editorial suggestions make them
painfully remove ethnographic details from journal articles to meet size requirements.
Transnational Family Research • 47
culturalisms or cultural keys, that is, simplified and potentially under informed
explanations of socioculturally conditioned practices and norms. Using the
example of authorities’ inability to efficiently communicate medical
information on the Ebola fever to locals Durham contrasts culturalisms and
cultural keys to substantiated anthropological knowledge, concluding that
everything is more complicated and complex than it seems (Durham 2016).
Interlocutors’ multiple voices during fieldwork helped build up a
multidimensional reality of at least some Chinese Hungarian mixed couple
relationships where partners’ decisions, conflicts, actions, intentions were
discussed in relation to their sociocultural backgrounds and life experiences.
As indicated in the section on the ethnographic field, fieldwork started
a long time before the research project outlined in this paper took its final
shape, with intensive language courses and later individual classes, and a
systematic attempt to attend public social events where Chinese and Hungarian
people met outside the world of commerce where. This was an exciting and
research-wise inspiring yet time and money consuming process I nevertheless
considered indispensable. It gave an overview of where one may find couples
and what are the ways to approach them that definitely did not work; and it
produced clues to knowledgeable individuals as potential cultural consultants.
There are some methodological advantages of extended fieldwork that
stand against its high costs and lengthy process. Even if the ethnographic field
is fragmented fieldwork made it possible to meet some interlocutors more than
once. It allowed for the patience to wait until some encounters could happen.
Importantly, in a few cases it opened up the possibility to follow subsequent
stages of the relationships adding a dynamic component to the analysis. It
created opportunities to fill in information gaps making phone calls or via e-
mail, or the incorporation of previously unplanned sources of information, or
discovery of some of the mistakes committed previously. Also, a continuous
personal involvement in the data collection process offered some degree of
visibility for interlocutors.
The ethnographic fieldwork towards the world of Chinese Hungarian
mixed couples had its limitations. This was caused primarily by the fragmented
quality of the field leading to fresh start situations during fieldwork way too
often. Separated or divorced couples and subsequently fragmented families
further aggravated this. Chinese partners’ transnational mobility and periodical
absence from Hungary also complicated the fieldwork process.
48 • Romanian Journal of Population Studies • Vol. XI, No. 1
IV. Missing information
As it was suggested in the introduction, there are several conditions that
challenge research on migrant groups in Hungary. The Interdisciplinary Centre
for Comparative Research in the Social Sciences (ICCR) in Budapest organised
a series of seminars on the methodological challenges of migration research in
Hungary and published its results in an edited volume (Kováts &Várhalmi
2014). The introduction enlists five conditions/circumstances that challenge
migration research in particular: 1) the low number of migrants with no
segregation or migrant neighbourhoods; 2) the lack of relevant statistical
information available about migrants; 3) the risks concerning the validity of
empirical sampling; 4) the difficulties arising from culturally different norms of
interpersonal interactions; and 5) the lack of trust related to the social distance
between migrant groups and majority society (Kováts & Várhalmi 2014: 9-10).
One of the central problems addressed was the methodological treatment of
data gaps and missing responses in survey types of enquiries.
Anthropological fieldwork extended in time helped overcome some of
these difficulties to a certain extent. With time, several people involved in
mixed partner relationships living in different neighbourhoods were identified,
contacted, and interviewed. Having an idea of their existence, attempts could
be made to find additional information about them in different forms of
computer mediated communication. Conducting anthropological fieldwork,
the problem of the validity of sampling was reflected on in the ethnography.
Nevertheless, several obstacles stood in the way of giving balanced pictures of
the individual cases. According to the original aim, both persons involved in a
relationship should have been interviewed but it was generally only one of
them willing to share experiences. Partners interviewed together talked more
tactfully in each other’s presence than individual interviewees and thus proved
to be generally less informative. On the other hand, partners who were
interviewed separately tended to give richer accounts than the ones interviewed
as a couple.
Gender sensitive social science literature on relationships has suggested
that there exist two, often very different or contradictory personal versions of
the same relationship (see for example Efron Pimentel 2000: 35). In more than
half of the interviewed cases it was either his or her version that the
interpretation was based on and the story remained one-sided, tempting
speculation. The conversations with two Hungarian women both in their
thirties and involved with Chinese men in their early fifties raised the question
in what way and to what extent their relationship narratives would correspond
to that of their Chinese partners.
Transnational Family Research • 49
One of the women, let’s call her Kati, a highly qualified professional with
experience in China and very advanced Chinese language skills, was
romantically involved and had a child with a married politician of the PRC
who was reported to be about to divorce his wife whom he had married
obeying his parents’ command. Their child was about two at the time of the
interview and lived with Kati who expressed an explicit intention to find a job
and realize her and her partner’s shared dream of uniting their family in China.
Conceived during one of his father’s international trips, the child had met his
father on one occasion in a third country during his dad’s official visit there.
Kati and her child communicated online with the Chinese father in
prearranged time periods on a regular basis, but it was their explicit intention
not to be online permanently. A recent communication with Kati two and a
half years after the first interview revealed that she and her child were still
living on their own in the Hungarian capital where she was working full time.
When asked to give a second interview about how their relationship and family
life developed ever since, Kati responded that she would prefer not to talk
about these things, noted that their plans and mutual affection for one another
did not change but both her and her partner’s situations are delicate and
require discretion.
The other Hungarian woman, Piri, a secretary with no tertiary
education or Chinese language skills met her ‘typical Chinese businessman’
fifteen years her senior at an online Hungarian dating site eight years prior to
our conversation. They had corresponded for a year before their first date and
their subsequent encounters developed into a romantic affair slowly. Although
she expressed hopes in this respect, the two of them had never moved in
together nor did her Chinese boyfriend ever express his intention to do so, but
she thought that she just had to be patient and it would happen. He always met
her on his own and she said to have met none of his Chinese friends or
relatives living in Hungary. On our first encounter during fieldwork
interlocutors were encouraged to tell about themselves only as much as they
felt comfortable with. This was the case in which an interviewee made most
use of this instruction commenting time after time that her boyfriend probably
wouldn’t like her going into further details about his name, business, hobby,
family status, and Chinese relatives living in Hungary, basic things she seemed
to have been familiar with but what he may have considered qualified
information. In both cases Chinese, male partners’ narratives and viewpoints
would have been crucial to the understanding of the definition and inner
dynamics of these relationships. Although it was extended in time, fieldwork
opened no doors for me to be able to listen to the men’s versions of these
50 • Romanian Journal of Population Studies • Vol. XI, No. 1
relationships directly. Some possible reasons for this are going to be discussed
further on.
V. Information from third parties
Personal friends and acquaintances who had known Chinese-Hungarian
couples made an important contribution to the fieldwork process. They
provided the first clues about the existence of some of these bonds. In a few
cases narratives of couples’ intimate friends became central sources, especially
where no interview was possible. The group of potential interviewees least
likely to share experiences with me and least accessible during fieldwork were
Chinese men.
A Google search on mixed marriage had helped identify a couple, Petra
and Ping, living in Budapest and married with children for nearly two decades.
Computer mediated communication including their relationship story, family
photos, business websites, and chat room comments suggested that not only
did they work together but they also shared political opinions, leisure time
activities, and religious faith. They, however, preferred not to be interviewed. It
was thanks to a male friend’s accidental encounter with Ping, the Chinese
businessman, on a long hiking experience in the countryside, and his sharing it
with me that gave insights of an otherwise inaccessible viewpoint during this
research, that of a Budapest-based Chinese businessman living with and caring
for his mixed marriage family. The two men, both in their late forties, walked
together for several hours talking over sports, business and family. Discussing
issues related with fatherhood Ping expressed his regrets of having not forced
his children to learn Chinese when they were young. Referring to his teenage
kids his said “he committed a mistake; that it went wrong, and it was all too
late to change.”
In a few cases third persons’ knowledge of couples outlined a reality
quite different from that expressed in interlocutors’ narratives. In their
interpretation of a few cases Chinese men’s Hungarian girlfriends or
cohabiting partners appeared as persons “blind to see their real position in the
relationship, implying that they may not have been included in their Chinese
partners long term plans, or that the men may have had a wife and family back
in China.
VI. Deciphering culturally conditioned norms and strategies of
communication
The acquisition and skills of the languages used by the studied group, in this
case Chinese and Hungarian, are considered a prerequisite of anthropological
Transnational Family Research • 51
fieldwork. Mandarin studies were referred to in the section on fieldwork,
however, it must be noted that I did not reach the necessary fluency in Chinese
to obtain the type of qualitative information this research required. It raised
the question whether or not the lack of ability to communicate fluently in half
of the potential interlocutors’ mother tongue was a major obstacle. My
fieldwork was framed by the Hungarian language (Borsfay 2014: 80). Although
it probably played a part in the difficulties of reaching potential Chinese
interviewees, their major cause was to be found in other factors related to
norms of communication conditioned by sociocultural and, to a lesser extent,
possibly by gender factors.
The original research design of the complete project on Chinese-
Hungarian intimate relations (including also the relations between Chinese
families and Hungarian child carers) counted on the paid collaboration of an
ethnic co-worker, a well-connected cultural consultant from the local Chinese
community. Having searched for months, a second-generation Chinese
university graduate, raised in Budapest and fluent in both languages, seemed
interested, comprehensive of and willing to get involved in the research
project. But she became paralysed when it came to actually contacting her local
Chinese acquaintances or her parents for an interview or even for an informal
conversation on intimate relations; so, in the end our cooperation could not
work out. Alternately, a similar attempt was made with a Hungarian
intermediary with connections in the Budapest Chinese community. After a
series of failed efforts, he withdrew from the project. At this stage in fieldwork
it seemed that, seen from the Chinese side, the whole idea of the research
topic was transgressing implicit norms of communication. Later on, these
experiences connected with the ethnic stereotypes of communication that a
Hungarian and two Chinese female interlocutors referred to independently
during our conversations. They shared the view that “the Chinese would never
talk about the things most important to them. They would keep those thoughts
only to themselves.” There is no space here to discuss in the detail the
implications of this statement for the study of intimacy, nevertheless it helped
me understand and handle the challenge of rejections.
This notion also helped process the research experiences when two
Chinese interlocutors denied or kept basic relationship information to
themselves, presenting thus a modified version of their relationship stories. I’ll
present the case of an elderly Chinese lady whom I refer to as Madame Wu.
She and her husband had met and married in China in the cold war era and
decided to move to Hungary. After a series of communications, phone calls
and e-mails we finally arranged an interview date with Madame Wu who had
52 • Romanian Journal of Population Studies • Vol. XI, No. 1
lost her Hungarian husband years before. A fluent speaker of Hungarian, she
recalled vividly her first encounter and happy married life with her Hungarian
husband and his parents, declaring it her life project to arrange and publish her
late husband’s academic legacy, presenting an overall picture of a long, happy,
affectionate and successful marriage with shared interests and two children.
Talking to a Hungarian friend about how fieldwork was advancing it was by
accident that I learned that Madame Wu had divorced her Hungarian husband
years before his death, an event that finally occurred in an old people’s home.
During the interview, I did not specifically ask if they had a divorce, since no
hints were given that it could have been the case. Madame Wu did not see it
necessary to provide me with this detail.
The relationship accounts manifest in the interviews showed very
different degrees of articulation of and personal reflection on the specific
issues influencing the everyday reality of mixed bonds (and families), ranging
from simple, ethno-centric comments to highly elaborate and complex
interpretations, primarily depending on partners’ ethnic belonging and level of
education. Fieldwork and the interview process indicated that the Chinese
migrants present in Hungary were less willing to talk about their relationships
than their Hungarian partners, and even when they decided to contribute they
shared less about their emotions and everyday personal interactions within the
relationship in the interviews. The likelihood that a person involved in a
Chinese Hungarian relationship was accessible for this research seemed to have
been influenced by a number of conditions such as gender, ethnicity, level of
education, and economic success. In general, Hungarians were more likely to
talk to me than Chinese, and women more likely than men; a Hungarian
woman much more likely than a Chinese man; Chinese persons with a higher
degree of education more likely than the ones without; economically very
successful Chinese business persons less likely than Chinese employees or
freelancers.
VII. Culturally embedded concepts
The problematic of culturally embedded concepts in quantitative as well as
qualitative migration research was addressed by Borsfay et. al. (2014) referring
to the context of Hungary. Discussing the languages and specific terms used in
questionnaires of migration research they drew the attention to the
significance of the different cultural frameworks of interpretation of notions
such as ‘rootlessness’, ‘home’,‘foreign country’, or ‘income’. These terms
invited very different associations from their ethnically mixed group of
migrant interviewees. During the research on Chinese Hungarian mixed
Transnational Family Research • 53
couples the socio-culturally conditioned circles of associations of two central
concepts, “marriage” and “family” marked a key dividing line in mixed
couples’ lives.
At the beginning of field research in 2013 I had a lengthy conversation
with Dr. Li, an elderly Chinese man living in Hungary, recommended to me as
a well-integrated member of the Chinese community. Dr. Li was considered an
intermediary between Chinese migrants and Hungarian locals by my first
Chinese contact in the field, Mr. Yu. Dr. Li dedicated his entire professional
life to learning and teaching Hungarian as a foreign language and became
university professor of Hungarian at a prestigious university in China. He had
spent several long periods in Hungary before finally getting settled in
Budapest. I hoped that he would know mixed couples and help me contact
them. He talked in Hungarian enthusiastically and I did my best to tell him that
I intended to realize and anthropological study to understand the role cultural
heritages played in the lives of Chinese-Hungarian mixed marriages. He
seemed to follow what I said, he told me that once he had a failed relationship
with a Hungarian woman, and that he couldn’t help me by providing contacts
because he did not have any. I was on my way home from the interview when
he telephoned and told that there he was with his wife sitting next to him and
that he thought that they could actually help me. He gave personal data of his
wife’s nephews, two Chinese men in their thirties who had arrived in Hungary
a couple of months before. He named the prestigious Chinese restaurants
where they worked as cooks, told me how much they earned per month and
added that they were about the get a rise. They would be interested in marrying
Hungarian women of their own age or maybe a little older but definitely not
divorcees. I told him again that my interest in mixed marriages is not setting
them up but studying the ones that already existed. I found this episode
informative on how, in spite of communicating fairly fluently in the same
language, the cultural embeddedness of certain concepts, such as ‘marriage’
and ‘an anthropological study on mixed marriage’ in a Chinese-Hungarian
context may invite different culturally conditioned associations and drive a
conversation onto separate tracks.
Another example highlights the culturally conditioned definition of
‘family’ of a typical Chinese businessman as perceived by Susan, his Hungarian
wife in her mid-fifties, mother of his five children. Susan’s husband’s ideas of
‘family’ and ‘family duties’ determined basic structural aspects of their family
life. Their case is analysed in more detail elsewhere (Kovács 2016), but in
summary, Susan’s definition of ‘family’ referred to her husband and their five
children, while her husband’s definition of family referred primarily to his
54 • Romanian Journal of Population Studies • Vol. XI, No. 1
parents, siblings, and more distant blood relatives, and his Hungarian wife and
children came second leading to never ending and unresolvable conflicts in
their lives, and finally to the separation of the couple.
VIII. Masking identities
Although it was possible to divide into different relationship categories,
Chinese Hungarian mixed partner relationships do not involve a numerous
population. Qualitative information, relationship histories, and life narratives
could easily reveal individuals’ identities. When asked to contribute to this
research interlocutors were promised anonymity. Writing up research results
started with hiding their real identities and replacing their names with
pseudonyms. Episodes of their lives were used separately, without one making
references to the others. There still remained some particularly revealing
personal features (e.g. number children; gender of children; location of
residence; profession; specification of business; etc.) that had to be hidden or
altered decided on an individual basis after careful measuring. When details
were changed in order to mask interlocutors’ personal identities it was intended
to be done in a way that the new sociocultural pattern associated with a person
appearing in the final results would not be substantially different from the
original. However, combining information available in online space with data
gathered through face-to-face interaction signalled the limits of masking
people’s identities and raised dilemmas of whether or not and to what extent
to use sources gathered through the internet.
IX. Personal position
Notions such as marriage, family, childcare, or a ‘good childhood’ are heavily
loaded with norms and values directly connected to one’s own sociocultural
background including the anthropologist; yet they tend to be implicitly thought
of as universally human. An academically inspired interest in everyday human
interpersonal interaction of a Hungarian female anthropologist combined with
her personal ideas have inevitably influenced the formulation of (some of) the
research questions. The question of how, let’s say, a Chinese male researcher
would go about the study of the same phenomenon kept intriguing me all
through the fieldwork. (I think of this possibility as a methodological must for
similar future research projects.)
The culturally conditioned norms and communication strategies
mentioned previously combined with my gender, age, Hungarian ethnic
background and language skills eased my way to women, especially Hungarian
women, and limited especially my access to Chinese mens ideas about their
Transnational Family Research • 55
relationships. This personal position seemed to have influenced the situations
and the overall atmosphere of my encounters with (potential) interlocutors and
also the quantity as well as the qualitative depths of the information in
interviews. Conducting fieldwork in a fragmented field on numerous locations
can also be accounted for the distance that remained between the
anthropologist and the field in the majority of the situations. Fieldwork data
and literature (Borsfay et.al. 2014) suggest that the presentation of a socially
acceptable image of oneself including one’s social relations is object of
personal efforts in the Chinese context. In a way, the research fell victim to the
social imperative of either hiding personal information or drawing a
socioculturally conditioned ideal picture of ones’ family relations, just as we
saw it in the case of Madame Wu. Doing research in a fragmented field also
decreased the anthropologist’s visibility for the people she studied; however,
interchanging e-mail messages and sending interview texts for revision helped
balancing this.
X. The ‘public afterlife of ethnography’ and the consequences of
research
This reference to Didier Fassin’s term (2015) in the subtitle draws attention to
the increasing need of and expectation from anthropologists to face and
handle the social and political consequences of their research and its results,
especially the ones that affect the people they study. How will an ethnography
change the lives of the anthropologist’ interlocutors? With respect to the
present study this question arises more powerfully in a time when social and
political tensions related to migrants and international migration dominate
politics as well as public discourse all over the world.
When presenting results, the minimal personal principle was trying not
to do any potential harm or risk to the people who contributed. As long as the
products of research, conference presentations, papers, articles, book chapters
stay within the restricted and isolated field of academia, chances of public
repercussion of results and potential negative consequences (for researcher
and interlocutors alike) are indeed low. Thinking of building blocks of a more
positive vision of how the research on mixed couples may enhance
interlocutors’ lives, three potential themes are specified. Reading more than the
abstract of an ethnographic article may contribute to a more profound
understanding of migration related phenomena by breaking up ethnic
stereotypes of migrants into ethnographic details that provide context and
reveal motives of behaviour. Second, some of the interview situations,
especially the ones that narrated failed marriages, seemed to have contributed
56 • Romanian Journal of Population Studies • Vol. XI, No. 1
to the interlocutor’s process of elaboration of these life experiences. Their
articulation and the interpretation of conflicting experiences contributed to
their empowerment. Finally, research results, and especially the typical
culturally conditioned causes of conflict could be used in marriage counselling
and translated into useful pieces of advice; they could be turned into a bi-
lingual Guide to Chinese-Hungarian Interethnic Partner Relationships, for
actual and potential members of such bonds.
5. Conclusions
This paper aimed to reflect on the process of the construction of the
ethnographic field as defined by its object of study, Chinese Hungarian mixed
partner relationships. The research was driven by the assumption that first
generation Chinese entrepreneurs and Hungarians only rarely engaged in a
romantic relationship. I had to face several methodological challenges during
the interpretive anthropological attempt to understand the everyday reality and
the sociocultural factors influencing the dynamics of intimate bonds between
Chinese and Hungarian persons. The anthropological fieldwork presented here
meant to answer two sets of research questions; one set targeted partner
relationships, while the other focused on the relations between Chinese
families and their Hungarian child carers. The particular methodological
problems related to the latter were not included in this work.
Some methodological difficulties were typical of extensive and
extended anthropological fieldwork, such as handling information coming
from third parties and socioculturally conditioned strategies of
communication, working with culturally embedded concepts, or assuming the
consequences of the researcher’s personal position in the field. The problem
of masking interlocutors’ identities takes us to that group of methodological
challenges that was conditioned by computer mediated communication and
audio-visual sources from the world of the internet. The borders of my
ethnographic field were outlined step by step following the research topic, the
specific research questions, and experiences gained through fieldwork. During
the research on Chines Hungarian marriages almost all methodological
problems had to be faced that were discussed in a volume on migrant research
methodology in Hungary ( Kováts & Várhalmi 2014), the most important of
them being missing information. Let me close this with Durham’s ideas on the
epistemological complexity of what she considers ‘good anthropology’. She
argues that ‘good anthropology’ also implies the ‘ability to be comfortable with
partial conclusions’ and ‘epistemological uncertainty’ (Durham 2016: 7).
Transnational Family Research • 57
Acknowlegments
The project received financial support from the Hungarian Scientific Research
Fund (OTKA).
References
Beck, F. (2015). “De ha a tükörbe nézek, az arcom kínai. Másodgenerációs
kínai fiatalok hibrid identitáskonstrukciói”. MAKAT Antroport:
Budapest 59 p.
Borsfay, K., Mikes, H., Török, L. (2014). “Bábeli útvesztő – Nyelvi kérdések s
kvantitatív és kvalitatív kutatás során”. In Kováts, A., Várhalmi, Z. (eds).
A válaszhiányok kezelésétől a résztvevő megfigyelésig. Módszertani problémák a
migrációkutatásban. ICCR: Budapest.
Clifford, J. (1997). “Spatial Practices: Fieldwork, Travel, and the Disciplining of
Anthropology”. In Gupta, A., Ferguson, J. (eds.) Anthropological Locations:
boundaries and grounds of the field science. Berkeley, Los Angeles, Londres:
University of California Press, pp. 185-222.
Durham, E. (2016). The “Good-Enough Anthropologist” Available at:
http://somatosphere.net/2016/08/the-good-enough-anthropologist.html
Accessed: 2017.04.06. 13:47.
Efron Pimentel, E. (2000). “Just How Do I Love Thee?: Marital Relations in
Urban China”. Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (1): 32-47.
Fassin, D. (2015). “The Public Afterlife of Ethnography”. American Ethnologist
42 (4): 592-609.
Hine, C. (2000). Virtual ethnography. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage
Publications.
Kovács, É., Melegh, A. (eds). (2010). ““Azt hittem célt tévesztettem”. A
bevándorló nők élettörténeti perspektívái, integrációja és a
bevándorlókkal kapcsolatos attitűdök nyolc európai országban”. KSH
Népességtudományi Kutatóintézet: Budapest.
Kovács, N. (2015). “Cultures Unfolding: Experiences of Chinese-Hungarian
Mixed Couples in Hungary”. Current Issues in Personality Psychology 3 (4):
254-264.
Kovács, N. (2016). “Global Migration and Intermarriage in Chinese-Hungarian
Context”. In Ducu, V., Telegdi-Csetri, Á. (eds). (2016). Managing Difference in
Eastern-European Transnational Families. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, pp. 113-131.
Kováts, A., Várhalmi, Z. (eds). (2014). A válaszhiányok kezelésétől a résztvevő
megfigyelésig. Módszertani problémák a migrációkutatásban. Budapest: ICCR.
Malinowski, B. (1922). Argonauts of the Western Pacific. London: Routledge.
Marcus, G. E. (1995). “Ethnography in/on the World System. The Emergence
of Multi-Sited Ethnography”. Annual Review of Anthropology (24): 95-117.
58 • Romanian Journal of Population Studies • Vol. XI, No. 1
Nagy, K. Z. (2015). “Ösvény a dzsungelben”. Replika 90-91: 39-56.
Nyíri, P. (2010a). “Egy transznacionális “közvetítő kisebbség”: kínai vállalkozók
Magyarországon”. In Feischmidt, M. (ed.). Etnicitás. Különbségteremtő
társadalom. Budapest: Gondolat-MTA Kisebbségkutató Intézet, pp. 141-
151.
Nyíri, P. (2010b). “Kínai migránsok Magyarországon: Mai tudásunk és aktuális
kérdések” [Chinese migrants in Hungary. What we know today and
relevant issues]. In Hárs, A., Tóth. J. (eds). (2010). Változó migráció
változó környezet [Changing migration in a changing context], Budapest:
MTA ENKI, pp. 147-171.
Nri, P. (2006). “Kínaiak és afgánok Magyarországon: két migráns csoport
érvényesülési stratégiái”. In Feischmidt, M., Nyíri P. (eds). Nem kívánt
gyerekek? Külföldi Gyerekek magyar iskolákban. Budapest: MTA Nemzeti-
Etnikai Kisebbségkutató Intézet Nemzetközi Migrációs és
Menekültügyi Kutatóközpont, pp. 39-74.
Örkény, A., Székelyi, M. (eds). (2010). Az idegen Magyarország. Bevándorlók
társadalmi integrációja. Budapest: Kisebbségkutató Intézet.
Sonnenberg, B. (2014). Mechanisms of unemployment and social involvement. Findings
from the Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) Springer: Wiesbaden.
Szabó, M. (2009). “Why Would We Need a Chinatown?” The Case of Chinese
Entrepreneurs in the Rust Belts of the 8th and 10th Districts of
Budapest. [Master’s Thesis]. Budapest: Central European University,
Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology.
Szilassy, E. (2006). ““Én nem vagyok rasszista, csak utálom a kínaiakat meg a
négereket” a külföldiekhez való viszony a magyar serdülők
beszédében”. In Feischmidt, M., Nyíri P. (eds). Nem kívánt gyerekek?
Külföldi Gyerekek magyar iskolákban. Budapest: MTA Nemzeti-Etnikai
Kisebbségkutató Intézet- Nemzetközi Migrációs és Menekültügyi
Kutatóközpont, pp. 97-127.
Várhalmi, Z. (2009).A Távol-Keletről Magyarországra érkező állampolgárok
munkavégzésének fő jellegzetsségei, típusa. (Kutatási zárótanulmány)”.
MKIK Gazadsági és Vállakozáselemző Intézet.
Várhalmi, Z. (2013). “Vállalkozó migránsok Magyarországon”. In Kováts, A.
(ed.). Bevándorlás és integráció. Magyarországi adatok, európai indikátorok. MTA
Társadalomtudományi Kutatóközpont, pp. 89-100.
... The use of social media tools, such as WhatsApp, to gain access to research populations can be an effective strategy in dealing with troubling gatekeepers. Scholars such as Roberts (2005), Chin-Fook and Simmonds (2011), Bro and Wallberg (2014), and Kovacs (2017) found the use of the internet or digital sources to be effective information gathering instruments without physically labouring past the traditional gatekeepers. Due to the vulnerability of undocumented migrants, the physical presence of a gatekeeper during a face to face interview may obstruct free communication. ...
Article
This paper examines the methodological challenges and ethical dilemmas posed by gatekeepers in migration research. Although the topic has been an issue of interest and debate among research practitioners globally, it continues to attract fervent scholarly attention. This paper contributes to this growing body of scholarship by focusing on research in contentious terrains, particularly undocumented or irregular migration. The paper explores how the negotiated transactions and interactions between researchers and gatekeepers have continued to colour the research discourse especially in the African context. It maintains that gaining access to research sites and (or) populations is an ever evolving, multi-layered and complex power balancing art which is characterised by compromises and trade-offs as each party seeks to protect its own interests. As central elements to securing entry, access and consent, gatekeepers have a profound capacity to both enable and constrain data collection. Finally, the paper provides some suggestions for formulating strategies to assist researchers to manage gatekeepers.
... The use of social media tools, such as WhatsApp, to gain access to research populations can be an effective strategy in dealing with troubling gatekeepers. Scholars such as Roberts (2005), Chin-Fook and Simmonds (2011), Bro and Wallberg (2014), and Kovacs (2017) found the use of the internet or digital sources to be effective information gathering instruments without physically labouring past the traditional gatekeepers. Due to the vulnerability of undocumented migrants, the physical presence of a gatekeeper during a face to face interview may obstruct free communication. ...
Article
Full-text available
Az etnográfi a egyik sajátossága, hogy viszonylag gyorsan integrál minden olyan technoló-giai újítást, mely könnyebbé és hatékonyabbá teszi a tereptapasztalat komplexitásának meg-ragadását, értelmezését és továbbadását. 2 Így volt ez a fotográfi ával és a fi lmmel, a számító-gépes adatelemzési módszerekkel, vagy a multimédiával, hipertextualitással és a különböző interaktív hálózati technológiák kal. E folyamatoknak is köszönhetően napjainkra az etno-gráfi ában külön módszertana van úgy a média, mint pl. a kibertér kutatásának. E módszer-tanok mögött sokszor eltérő színvonalú és kidolgozottságú elméletek állnak, hiszen amíg a kiberetnográfi a 3 méreteiben és minőségében is jelentősebb szakirodalommal rendelkezik, addig a hipertextualitás etnográfi ai alkalmazásával kapcsolatban alig találunk irodalmat, s ami van, azt is inkább aff éle "tutorial"-nak lehetne nevezni, mint elméletnek. Ennél is na-gyobb hiány mutatkozik olyan szövegekben, melyek valamilyen módon megpróbálják ér-telmezni, közös horizont alá rendezni ezeket a módszereket és elméleteket, vagy egyáltalán: ennek a lehetőségét megpróbálják felvetni. Tanulmányomban egy ilyen kísérletre vállalko-zom, vagyis bizonyos elméletek és módszertanok alakulásának, egymásra vonatkozásának egy lehetséges olvasatát próbálom megfogalmazni. Mint Cliff ord Geertz írja: "az intenzív terepmunka öröksége határozza meg a kuta-tás antropológiai jellegét" Ebből nem csupán az következik, hogy a terep és a terepen való jelenlét sajátos módja a kulturális antropológia megkülönböztető jellegzetessége, hanem az is, hogy a jelenlét sajá-1 A tanulmány a PTE BTK Nyelvtudományi Doktori Iskola Kommunikáció Doktori Programján "Hová lett a református öntudat" címmel 2013-ban megvédett doktori disszertációmban felvetett módszertani és elméleti prob-lémák továbbgondolása. A szöveg részben az értekezés egyes fejezeteire épül. 2 A tanulmány a Bolyai János Kutatási Ösztöndíj támogatásával készült. 3 A cyber-ethnography és általában a kiber-társadalomtudományok elnevezéseinek még nincsen a magyar nyel-ven hivatalos és egységes átírása. Miután az etnográfi át is ebben a formában használjuk, és a "cyber" előtaggal képzett szavak a számítástechnikai irodalomban magyarul sokszor "kiber" előtaggal képződnek, tanulmányomban e problémás szóösszetételek esetében én is ezt a változatot használom.
Article
Full-text available
The research outlined in this paper focuses on a subfield related to Chinese migrants’ integration in Hungary: Chinese-Hungarian mixed partner relationships. I present some findings of an anthropological study on Chinese-Hungarian couples in Hungary, although other localities may also be involved in some of these couples’ lives. Based on interviews conducted with members of Chinese-Hungarian married, cohabiting and dating, separated or divorced couples, and on data gathered through predominantly online fieldwork, this research explores notions and values that are at play in shaping the dynamics of these relations. The sample of thirty-seven couples features two characteristically different types of relationships: those referred to as “student love”, and the relationships of “typical” Chinese migrants with Hungarians. The former tend to be much more successful and persistent in time, with two cases of divorce or separation out of sixteen, whereas the latter are considerably less persistent, with eight cases of divorce or separation and two cases of crises out of thirteen bonds. Another notable finding is that Chinese-Hungarian marriages are much more persistent in time if the Chinese partner is female. The paper consists of the following consecutive parts: an introduction to the Chinese migrant context and inter-ethnic partner relations in Hungary; a review of relevant literature; presentation of research methods and fieldwork; presentation and discussion of the research sample; presentation of some results from the interviews; and conclusions.
Chapter
The paper scrutinizes life events narrated by a Hungarian woman married to a Chinese wholesale tradesman for almost thirty years. Their relationship was challenged regularly by apparently irreconcilable notions of marriage, family, and love; notions shaped by their different sociocultural backgrounds. Their experiences are integrated into the results of an anthropological research on Chinese-Hungarian mixed couples. © Peter Lang GmbH, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main 2016. All rights reserved.
Article
Research generally ends with the publication of its results. What happens to it afterward is implicitly viewed as the usual after-sales service of science. Yet its encounter with various audiences, the debates it raises, and the new perspectives it opens can be collectively regarded as an object of inquiry in its own right. In this essay, I embark on an analysis of the public afterlife of ethnography. Rather than promote public social science, I examine what it is, the operations it entails, the questions it poses, and the challenges and limitations it faces. Drawing principally from public engagement with and reception of two recent books on urban policing and the carceral condition in France, I discuss the meaning and significance of afterlife, the multiple configurations of and interactions with publics, and the specific issues related to the publicization of ethnography.
Article
People's involvement in social groups and networks constitutes a resource for societies and individuals. More specifically, involvement represents the basis upon which social integration takes place and provides access to material and non-material goods considered to be rewarding for individuals. Despite substantial research suggesting that unemployment triggers social exclusion and social isolation, evidence for the causal influence of unemployment on social involvement is limited. Past studies typically have relied on research methods that are unable to address causality. Using long-term panel data from Germany and panel estimation methods, Bettina Sonnenberg investigates the causal effects of unemployment on people's social involvement. By taking into account selection confounds, she shows that findings from cross-sectional research are misleading and have advanced inaccurate conclusions regarding the social consequences of unemployment.
Article
This review surveys an emergent methodological trend in anthropological research that concerns the adaptation of long-standing modes of ethnographic practices to more complex objects of study. Ethnography moves from its conventional single-site location, contextualized by macro-constructions of a larger social order, such as the capitalist world system, to multiple sites of observation and participation that cross-cut dichotomies such as the “local” and the “global,” the “lifeworld” and the “system.” Resulting ethnographies are therefore both in and out of the world system. The anxieties to which this methodological shift gives rise are considered in terms of testing the limits of ethnography, attenuating the power of fieldwork, and losing the perspective of the subaltern. The emergence of multi-sited ethnography is located within new spheres of interdisciplinary work, including media studies, science and technology studies, and cultural studies broadly. Several “tracking” strategies that shape multi-site...