chapter  3
18 Pages


ByGeorge Chak Man Lee

In cross-cultural comparative studies, researchers will always need to tailor their planned field research depending on the situation and access on the ground. This is more so in the case of research into the sensitive and difficult area of policing and corruption in the highly complex social and political societies of India and China – where even a standard police station organigram is regarded as a state secret. Consequently, in addition to the usual diagnostic tool choices associated with this type of field research, there is also the added complexity of language and consideration of personal safety and cultural norms (both societal and organisational) in interpreting, analysing and understanding nuances from an insider/native’s perspective. Gaining access to representatives of the Chinese security state is difficult, particularly for foreign researchers. Scholars seeking to break into this world must identify points of entry, navigate cultural differences and establish trust with their interviewee. In addition to the access issues, researching in China, and especially in the case of interviewing in closed government institutions, familiarity with the researcher’s potential insider/outsider impact to that process needs to be understood. In qualitative research, the researcher cannot avoid bringing individual experience, personal background and pre-existing understanding of a phenomenon into the research process. Consequently, the researcher must be thoughtful and self-aware of the role that s/he plays in that process. Reflexivity is a significant part of the process of knowledge production, especially in qualitative methodologies and being an ‘insider’ allows researchers a more complete knowledge than that of an ‘outsider’ where life experiences may outweigh structural or biological characteristics in understanding where one stands in relation to one’s interviewees as well as intuitively appreciating the nuances of what is being said.