Method, actor and context triangulations: knowing what happened during criminal events and the motivations for getting involved
Based on ethnographic research inside and outside a South African juvenile prison, I argue that asking offenders about their perspectives on their offences brings about a one-sided version both of what happened during a criminal event and of the motivation for getting involved in such events. The knowledge generated through the offender’s perspective can be evaluated for its validity through triangulation of methods, actors and contexts. These triangulations bring about various perspectives on the criminal event and the motivations for becoming a part of it, and by combining and comparing those perspectives it becomes possible to evaluate their relative validity. I illustrate this point through an analysis of a South African male youngster who committed a murder, got sentenced for it for five years and was released from prison during my fieldwork. The chapter unpacks what is meant by ‘ethnographic research’ and shows how validity is created in such kind of research.