Qualitative Data Sources for Interpretivist Research

I am studying refugee integration because I want to find out why Bosnian refugees were able to integrate so well into Swedish society, in order to help my reader understand the changing dynamics of the refugee question and the symbiotic relationship between Sweden and refugees. Additionally, why does Sweden view Bosnian refugees as the most successfully integrated into Swedish society and what potential problems does this cause for following refugee groups?

One data source I will be examining is an article from a Swedish English-language newspaper discussing what lessons Sweden can learn from its Yugoslavian refugees.[1] It’s an article written by a Spanish footballer, includes excerpts from an interview with the President of a Bosnian and Herzegovinian interest and advocacy group in Sweden as well as Jasenko Selimovic a Yugoslavian-Bosnian born Swedish writer and politician. It compares the Syrian and Bosnian refugee processes in Sweden. It does not include any Syrian refugee perspectives, but does include a former Bosnian refugee’s perspective. The article shows that there’s an ongoing conversation about refugee integration in Sweden which began with the first significant wave of refugees, post-WWII.

Another data set I will examine is the Swedish Immigration and Alien law from 1990 as well as the revised version from 1997, which was changed following the Bosnian refugee influx of the ‘90s.[2] The language of the document is very formal, like one would expect from government laws, using terms to refer to people or groups of people as “authorities,” “aliens,” “the Government,” “the Minister,” etc. Additionally, the Aliens Act was amended following the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis only to meet the minimum standards outlined by the European Union. This revision illuminates a discourse surrounding the text and whether or not it should just be revised every time Sweden opens its borders, then is overwhelmed by the number of refugees who have come, and then the government decides to shut the borders.[3]  Researching and understanding the popular discourse on Bosnian refugees during and after the refugee wave as well as the changing legal and governmental response to these refugees will help me explore the Swedish idea of refugees and how it’s formed and reformed.


[1] Lee Roden, „What lessons can Sweden learn from its Yugoslavian refugees?,” The Local, Swedish Edition, 18 September 2017, (accessed 11 November 2018) https://www.thelocal.se/20170918/what-lessons-can-sweden-learn-from-its-yugoslavian-refugees

[2] “Aliens Act (1990, updated 1997),” OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights,  (accessed 11 November 2018) https://www.legislationline.org/documents/id/3712

[3] “Gov’t:  Sweden’s Aliens act to be adapted to EU’s minimum levels,” Sveriges Radio AB, 24 November 2015, (accessed 11 November 2018) https://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=6310138

2 thoughts on “Qualitative Data Sources for Interpretivist Research”

  1. Hi Phoebe,
    I think that the two data sources you found are relevant to your research and serve as good starting points. I particularly like the 1990 law that you found because I think that it will give you a better sense of the power networks at play. The participants are the policy-makers and their perceptions of immigrants informed their processes of meaning-making, which in turn effected the objects of the discourses: immigrants. I realize you have just started sifting through your sources, but I am wondering: what do the discourses that you are analyzing make possible? Is it the symbiotic relationship between the Swedes and Bosnian immigrants? Or is it the immigration strategies/policies themselves? I am interested to see how you project progresses within this research methodology. Good Luck!

  2. The documents you discuss here are good starting points for this methodology, Phoebe (especially the government document, as Tina points out). Going forward, though, it will be important to hone in on the particular meanings/symbols/identities — the content of the discourses — that you propose to analyze. Right now your problem statement is still reflective of neopositivist assumptions about cause-effect, but remember that these are not valid assumptions in the world of interpretivism! Instead of asking “…why Bosnian refugees were able to integrate so well into Swedish society…” focus more on the specific meanings that you are proposing to analyze. Who/what is being given meaning or “brought into being” through the discourses? (Just as lone mothers are constructed as, or brought into being as, immoral individuals in the discourses that Carabine analyzes). Note how Carabine might have written her problem statement as: “I am researching social policy and lone mothers in 1830s Britain because I want to find out why lone mothers were constructed as immoral individuals in order to help my reader understand why lone mothers were stigmatized, isolated, and even institutionalized in the 1800s (and beyond).” Notice how the middle part focuses precisely on the discourses/meanings that she has identified in the primary sources and that she proposes to analyze?). Make sure to keep this in mind as you continue your reading and research!

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