Getting to Grips with Gatekeepers in African Migrant Research

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Langtone Maunganidze


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.

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