Observing a Working-Class Activist Group

“Do Fieldwork, Think Case by Case”
By Julian Mischi

Based on fieldwork with unionized railway workers, this article highlights ethnographic work conducted with activist groups. While activist socialization is most often studied after the fact—that is, based on interviews where activists recount their history and motivations—our research aims to document this socialization in situ, by observing activist activities over many years. At the same time, conducting interviews and documentary research still prove to be invaluable in accounting for the power relationships that govern observed situations and contextualize activist activities. The adopted research strategy requires accepting the partially unpredictable nature of the methodology. It also offers the possibility, under certain conditions, of discussing one’s research hypotheses with informants-turned-allies.

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