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UnwantedMuslim Immigrants, Dignity and Drug Dealing$

Sandra M. Bucerius

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199856473

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199856473.001.0001

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(p.193) Appendix “Somehow You’re a Friend, Even Though You’re a Woman”

(p.193) Appendix “Somehow You’re a Friend, Even Though You’re a Woman”

Oxford University Press

Some Thoughts on Negotiating Access and Trust

You’re just not a real German. Really, you’re like a foreigner—I mean, you’re not like us, like Kanaken . . . because you’re like a doctor or something, but you’re more a foreigner than a German. And you’re like a sister. I don’t have a sister, but I think this is what it would be like.


There is no “how-to” guide to help researchers gain access to their target population. Much has been written about ethnographic work in general, but the process of building trust and rapport is highly individualized and personal. Similarly individualized are the different roles that researchers assume when conducting fieldwork. Ethnographers have written extensively about these various roles and the implications they have for their fieldwork experiences and findings (Adler and Adler 1987; Asselin 2003; Brannick and Coghlan 2007; Coffey 1999; Gans 1968; Gold 1958; Whyte 1943).

While I formed very close friendships with some of the young men during the five years of my research and established good relationships with others, I would never claim that I was ever a “real” insider. Although my gender was the most obvious feature that set me apart from the all-male group, I was also distinguished by my German-Christian heritage, level of education, and class background. Frankly, while I shared five years with (p.194) these young men, I could have walked away any day and continued to live my very comfortable upper-middle-class life, whereas they did not have such an option. Because of the many differences between us, I argue that I remained an outsider trusted with “inside knowledge.” Yet, as Duneier (1999) reminds us, aspects of a researcher’s identity may become more or less salient over the course of the research process, depending on the context. In his influential ethnography Sidewalk, Duneier recounts that he was at times seen as “a naive white man who could himself be exploited for ‘loans’ of small change and dollar bills” and at other times as “a Jew who was going to make a lot of money off the stories of people working the streets” (1999, 12). I had a similar range of experiences throughout the process of establishing a rapport: I found that my identity was fluid over time and that I was perceived differently depending on whom I was with and in what context we found ourselves. Ultimately, however, all of the young men treated me like a “buddy-researcher” (Snow, Benford, and Anderson 1986). This meant that I could behave as their friend while also retaining a certain degree of professional distance (see also the concept of “stranger and friend” in Powdermaker 1966).

Over the course of my research, many of the young men came to consider me as both a friend and an outsider. The research process was a constant give and take—a mutual exchange of ideas. Together we created a world that did not exist prior to this research (nor after) but allowed the research process to happen.

Initial Contact

Since it is common knowledge that youth centers in most large German cities are frequented by young men who are involved in illicit activities, I decided that the easiest way to gain access to my original target population—low- and mid-level dealers—would be through one such institution: I assumed that I would be able to hang out at the center and fairly easily engage whoever was there in conversation. One key benefit of this approach was that I would not have to try to engage young men for the first time in the streets but could use what I thought would be a safe and open space to make initial contact.

It took a lot of effort to persuade the three male social workers to let me use the facilities for my research (for a more detailed account, see Bucerius 2013). Officially, I was given the role of a “social work intern.”1 According to the social workers, this title would make it much easier to justify my presence to the young men. Mainly, my job as “intern” was simply to “be (p.195) there” to write résumés for the men, help younger visitors with their homework, engage in conversation, and play table tennis or darts. The tasks of the social workers did not differ much from mine. The facility had no structured programs, but the social workers were supposed to be available to offer advice, often over a game of table tennis, darts, or pool. They also wrote résumés and job applications when needed and made many phone calls and wrote letters on behalf of the young men. In a sense, the youth center served “as the living room that these guys don’t have” (in the words of the director of the center), a place where they could feel safe and comfortable, and could meet their friends. Essentially, the youth center used a “low-threshold” approach, aimed at providing an at-risk population with social assistance without expecting them to comply with many rules or to participate in structured programs.

The social workers told me that the success of my research would hinge on what the “leaders” among the young men thought of me. They pointed out Akin and Inanc as the main leaders and stressed that I needed to understand the social workers’ position and their inability to keep the young men in check. They also stressed that even if they wanted to, they could not really protect me: “You have to understand,” the director said, “it’s three of us and seventy, eighty guys who carry knives—there is no way we can really protect you.”

Many of my early interactions2 with the young men were influenced by how the “gatekeepers” told me to behave and what they told me about how the young men might react. In retrospect, I think that many of the initial perceptions the young men and I had about each other were influenced by the social workers’ opinions, which they shared with me and the young men. For example, they openly discussed my initial inability to gain Akin’s trust with other young men, trying to figure out how I could improve our relationship:


  • Sandra would have it so much easier if she smoked. She could just sit down with Akin and share a cigarette. Smoking forms bonds.
  • TALAT:

  • Yeah, I agree. You could have a much more relaxed conversation.
  • These conversations emphasized the importance of my Akin’s acceptance, both to me and to the rest of the guys. Furthermore, the message that I should impress the “alpha males” stuck with me long into my research, often obscuring the fact that I had gained the trust of some young men well before I had gained that of Akin or Inanc and influencing my behavior (p.196) toward everyone else. For example, the social workers maintained that Inanc was one of the most powerful young men in the group, and the director told me on one of my very first visits, “If Inanc’s thumb goes down, you’ll be out of here in no time.” As a result, I was very nervous to approach him over the first few days. What the social workers did not know, however, was that Inanc was already losing status among the young men. He had become a heavy cocaine user, a habit that was condemned by the majority of the group. Because cocaine consumption (or dealing, for that matter) was never discussed in front of the social workers, they continued to operate under the assumption that things were how they had always been. In other words, the social workers were not always current or “in the know” on intragroup developments and had relatively little knowledge about what was going on outside the community youth center, even though these developments often influenced the young men. In effect, because the social workers presented themselves as insiders, I initially trusted their analyses of the hierarchies among the young men more than I trusted my own as an outsider—a role I eventually came to realize had its own potential. The social workers’ claims to insider status in fact often impeded their ability to obtain accurate knowledge of the young men. For example, they often refrained from asking questions about group dynamics or the drug trade since a “true insider” would likely already know the answers. In my presence, they often presented their assumptions about hierarchies and drug dealing as facts, thereby implicitly reinforcing their insider status. Yet I was probably in a better position to witness group dynamics and politics because I was not already enmeshed with the young men (Fay 1996). I could pose detailed questions that only an outsider could ask about group life and the drug trade, and the inside knowledge with which I was increasingly entrusted allowed me to gain a more complete picture of the young men over time. The young men readily told me about Inanc and his cocaine habit, for instance, when explaining the group rules by which they were expected to abide and which Inanc had evidently overstepped.

    Constructing My Role as a Female Researcher

    The first few weeks of my research were very difficult for me, but it was an awkward time for the young men as well. I had simply shown up in their territory without any referrals from people they knew, so they had no idea of who I was or what to make of me. In the past, they had seen a few new male social workers come to the center, so they knew how to react to and (p.197) test the trustworthiness of a male “intruder,” but having a woman in their midst was a completely new situation. After he grew to trust me, Rahim told me:

    Let’s face it, Sandra, you’re just showing up but nobody knows you—not a single fucking person around here! And, of course, you’re saying that you’re a student and want to write a book about us and all that bullshit. I mean, that’s all nice, but honestly, who is supposed to believe that shit? And how are we supposed to know whether you’re cool or not? Let’s face it, this could have been the biggest nonsense! . . . You are a woman. . . . We can’t check you out the same way we’d do it with a guy. Nobody around here is going to beat up females or threaten them big time or something like that. That’s why everyone was just staring at you for the first couple of days and everyone was waiting for you to leave again by yourself.

    As some of the young men started to talk to me over the first few weeks, the focus of our interactions became less about me being a stranger and an outsider and more about me being a woman. They started to test me against their idealistic image of women in every possible way: almost every conversation we had was related to women, gender roles, and why I did not fulfill their criteria of a “real” woman. I was aware that many of these conversations were attempts to test my reaction and “impress” me (Kauffman 1994, 180), but I couldn’t help feeling awkward when they made remarks about my physical appearance, my clothing, or my “female” personality. As much as I wished that comments like, “Sandra, did you gain weight? Your legs look a little fat today” would have no influence on me whatsoever, I caught myself thinking about the comments more than once.

    During the first stages of my research, I even carefully selected my outfits (as in Maher 1997) and tried to avoid any allusion to sexuality by wearing extremely baggy sweatshirts, worn-out jeans, and no makeup at all. This strategy ended up backfiring, as I was constantly subjected to negative comments about my appearance and womanhood. I could endure this reaction because of my research goals, but I sometimes wished that I could appear as my usual self. The first time I wore a (long) skirt, several months into my research, the young men did not stop commenting about it all day—highlighting how my usual clothing was very “non-female.” I started wondering whether I had made too strong of a statement with my chosen “youth center clothes,” which had apparently facilitated the very conversations I was hoping to avoid (except that instead of discussing how sexy I was, all they talked about was how “un-sexy” I was).3 Ironically, my perception of the young men’s reactions toward women had led me to wear typical (p.198) “male” clothing and thus to enforce gender roles myself. As many feminist researchers have pointed out, gender is always salient (e.g., Arendell 1997; Presser 2005); however, in those early days, I mistakenly believed I could somehow “ease the tension” by trying to efface the signs of my femininity.

    The gender dynamics were also complicated and compounded by my age: when I started my fieldwork, I was 23, the same age as the group average. This meant that the men perceived me as a potential sexual partner, which undoubtedly influenced the process of establishing relationships with them. Some attempted to flirt during the first few months of the research; however, because I had not garnered their full respect yet, these attempts were always in one-on-one situations rather than in front of other young men. At the same time, the homogenous setting of the youth center allowed for many discussions of the “perfect woman.” Since I clearly did not fit that picture (because of my different social and religious background, my ideas about gender relations, and my lack of resemblance to the pictures of women in the many pornographic magazines that circulated around the youth center), there was never a moment at which any of the young men overtly flirted with me.4 Later in my research, I had become an integral part of the group, so viewing me as a sexual partner was not really an option anymore (as Özgur said many times, I functioned as a sister to many of them—sexuality was out of the question). However, despite the sexual overtones that are obviously always present in gender-mixed interactions, being a woman also enabled me to act as a sort of relationship counselor without having to act as a “wise adult.”5

    As torturous as it was to work through the gender dynamics during the initial stages of my fieldwork, this process was crucial to gain access to, and earn the trust of, the young men. Over time, I was increasingly trusted with “inside knowledge,” and discussions about my “incorrect perception” of women and my “female duties” became less frequent. My femininity became accepted as part of my identity and was sometimes even seen as a positive attribute. As Jo wrote from prison, “The guys never write. Men don’t write letters until they are locked up. With you, I at least know that I will get something back.”

    In many ways, I was saddled with the role of a sexual educator who was supposed to present the “female perspective.” In contrast to Horowitz (1986), who was initially identified as “the lady” by the men she was studying (meaning that sexual matters were not discussed in front of her), sex and women (as long as they were “only” sexual partners and not steady girlfriends) were constantly discussed in front of me, and this did not change over the years. Discussions about sexuality helped me earn trust, as all the young men were interested in learning more about female sexuality. This (p.199) gave me a chance to impress the young men: I had information to offer that they could not easily access from anyone else.


  • Sandra, come here, we’re having an argument.

  • What’s it about?
  • IBOR:

  • We’re talking about how often a woman has her period, and this moron thinks it’s four times a year! I’ve been telling him it’s just twice.
  • RAHIM:

  • Whatever, you idiot! Sandra, tell him I’m right!
  • Given the young men’s clear ideas about how women ought to behave, gender dynamics played an important role in my research. Such dynamics are always shaped by personal experiences and cultural background, so our views often clashed. Especially in the beginning, the young men took it as a personal offense that I constantly refused to fulfill my “female duties” or acquiesce to their demands to “go make coffee,” “go clean the toilet,” or “clean this fucking place.” My “disobedience” was often followed by discussions in which the young men made comments that were stereotypically expected of them as they tried to get me to fulfill these “female duties.” I don’t believe that the opinions they expressed in these discussions always represented their true opinions; rather, I think these conversations served as a medium for debating the larger question of gender roles.6 This topic was a constant undercurrent of the research project (given the gender divide between me and the young men), but it was also a result of cultural stereotypes. The young men generally felt that I, as a German woman, was not fulfilling the female duties that they expected me to fulfill based on their own cultural backgrounds (or their understanding of those backgrounds). Many of these discussions were staged and exaggerated; they only became heated debates when we pushed each other’s buttons, as exemplified by my early field notes:

    Talat and Inanc asked me whether I can pick up the trash on the pool table—I say “no.” The typical “Why not?” “Because that’s not my job” conversation develops and more guys join in. Akin joins and says “Why do you even discuss that with her, she’s not a real woman. Having boobs does not make her a woman.” I am annoyed by his remarks and ask why he thinks a real woman would clean the pool table. We get deeper and deeper into the discussion—what started off as a joke becomes a loaded discussion about their moms and how they respect everything that they do. They don’t let me off the hook anymore. . . . I asked myself why I even tried being confrontational. Later on, Nermin and Mustaffer tell me to not take everything so seriously.

    (p.200) Most of these discussions occurred near the beginning of my fieldwork, highlighting how they likely did not always represent the real opinions of the young men (or my own, for that matter) but often exaggerated their views. These conversations allowed both sides to fulfill our “roles”—the young men expressed themselves in a stereotypically expected way, and I did the same. In a way, these discussions brought us closer and provided great possibilities for building trust by enabling both sides to express our emotions. Because we both held very stereotypical views about the other’s opinions, many of the discussions served to test each other’s “real” standpoint but also provided a basis for getting to know each other. We did push each other’s buttons, but we also tried to understand each other’s opinion. These young men had never before had the opportunity to ask a German woman about relationships (and vice versa), so we both used the situation to learn about each other’s worlds: the young men who were living in Germany and me as a researcher embedded in their subculture. In many ways, then, being a woman actually helped me to negotiate access and trust.

    I think the fact that I was Christian rather than Muslim also helped me. The young men’s Islamic background was important to their identity, and they had very clear ideas of what actions they believed to be in compliance with their religion. Even though most of what they believed to be “Islamic” would never hold true in a traditional Islamic context, they took those self-created rules very seriously. They tried hard to keep women separate from their group and felt that women had to be protected from becoming “impure” by exposure to other men, drugs, or violence. This belief was particularly strong when it came to Muslim women, so being allowed access to their “impure” world likely depended on the fact that I—as a Christian—was seen as an outsider.

    Constructing Different Researcher Identities

    The young men saw me as someone with “choices” in life, whereas their own experiences had clearly limited their options. My German background meant that I had more possibilities than the young men, who blamed Germans for much of the social, political, and economic exclusion that they had experienced. Thus, I initially represented what the young men called “bad people.” However, fairly quickly, they decided that because I was genuinely interested in them, I was not like other Germans, who, according to the young men, were racist: (p.201)

    Gezim: A typical German?? A wimp . . . somebody who works like a robot, no feelings involved, no honor at all, no clue about family values . . . or simply a Nazi.7 Let’s face it: most Germans are Nazis. I don’t mean Nazis like the Americans. . . . They are not so much against blacks, but just against foreigners in general.

    The fact that I was also a PhD student meant that class played a bigger role in our encounters than it might have had I been a social worker (especially in the German context, in which educational attainment is hugely dependent on class). As a graduate student, I differed completely from the young men, whose main (and often only) source of income was through drug dealing; none of them had a steady job within the formal economy. Most didn’t understand what a PhD was—they thought I was working to become a medical doctor—so I explained that I was interested in writing a book about their lives.8 As other ethnographers have found—and much to my relief—the young men turned out to be quite excited about this idea. As Scheper-Hughes would say, I became the “minor historian” for people who otherwise would have no history (1992, 29).

    The group’s level of acceptance of me increased during the research process, but I was never accepted as a full member, becoming “one of them”: after all, I obviously couldn’t change from a female, German, upper-middle-class student into a male, migrant, lower-class drug dealer. Ethnographers are encouraged to immerse themselves into the native scene (Lowie 1937, 232), but Polsky warns that they had better not pretend to be “one of them” (1967, 124). No matter how involved in the young men’s activities I became, I was never one of them. I could only become a friend to them: close enough to accompany them in their activities, but always a stranger from an entirely different Lebenswelt (Powdermaker 1966, 12).

    While it took a very long time for the young men to fully understand my identity as a researcher and what I meant to each individual member, it was evident fairly quickly who I was not. As Ümit said: “I don’t know . . . you’re just not German. I mean . . . you’re not a German. You’re more of . . . I can’t explain that . . . you’re just an exception. You’re actually more like a foreigner, but not German at all.” I did not have to take on any predetermined gendered or ethnic role. Because I was different from what they had expected (i.e., a “German robot woman”) and I was the first German woman with whom they had had close contact, they were interested in getting to know me. Their intense interest in my sexual life, for example, was rooted in their ignorance about female sexuality and the fact that they had never met a woman who would answer their intimate questions. I assumed the (p.202) role of a “sexual educator” who presented the “female perspective.” They were also eager to discuss cultural differences and their difficulties with German society. While many debates about gender expectations were certainly exaggerated, the young men were honestly interested in understanding my point of view. Because of this, as well as the fact that they finally came to view me as a friend, I was not constantly “hit on,” as one might expect. A German girl had never been part of their group, so we mutually created a new and unique relationship, which was crucial for preventing sexual overtones from overpowering our relationships. They could treat me as a woman but not as a sexual object. As Özgür said:

    And certainly, most of the guys still want to lay you . . . but, you know, only in theory, only in theory. . . . But you know, that’s just not a topic anymore, that is . . . how do you call it? . . . a “no-no.” . . . It’s a taboo. Just like a sister. If you think about it . . . you could have a sister who is a sexy chick, but you would never, ever have sex with her, never.’Cause it would be disgusting!

    Concluding Remarks

    As stated initially, accounts of gaining trust as a researcher and the roles we have to assume to do so are always highly individualized, and my account is by no means any different. However, I believe a few concluding comments can be made that are relevant to ethnographic research more generally.

    First, my research experiences challenge the long-cherished assumption in anthropological research that “the key to understanding . . . appears to be to build relationships of trust with people to gain privileged insider status,” for without that insider status, one “learns less” (Tope, Chamberlain, and Crowley 2005, 489). Fay’s provocative question, “Do you have to be one to know one?” (1996, 9) raises the question of whether membership in a group is in fact necessary or sufficient to gain in-depth knowledge (see also Mullings 1999). My fieldwork demonstrates that it is possible to develop an intricate understanding of research participants while remaining an outsider (see also Hill-Collins 1990). Importantly, my outsider status encouraged the young men to trust me with inside information that they would not otherwise have shared with “real insiders” (Fonow and Cook 1991), such as when Akin divulged to me the story of his parents’ divorce.

    Second, although gatekeepers are often regarded as providing points of entry into a field setting, my work reminds us that they can also hinder the process of gaining the trust of the group. The gatekeepers at the youth center were insiders who behaved as though they possessed “monopolistic or (p.203) privileged access to knowledge” (Merton 1970, 15), which initially had a significant impact on my perceptions of the young men and vice versa. In many ways, the gatekeepers in this study misunderstood the young men’s hierarchy and had minimal knowledge of the young men’s activities outside the center, indicating that gatekeepers do not necessarily always have the inside knowledge that they think or claim to have. I discovered that it is smarter to test gatekeepers’ assumptions rather than relying on them unquestioningly, as I did at the outset, which hindered my initial collection of useful data. A researcher is often right to assume that gatekeepers may be too enmeshed within the group to retain the distance necessary for analysis (Powdermaker 1966). They may also have ambivalent feelings or personal agendas that obscure their ability to recognize the reality of a situation, as in the case of Inanc, whom they continued to believe was one of the most powerful members of the group when in fact he had slipped in the ranks. Moreover, their repeated privileging of Inanc seemed to serve as their own privileging tactic—a way of reaffirming and justifying their insider status. In this sense, my work shows how being—or assuming that one is—an insider can actually be a liability, since it permits many assumptions to go unquestioned. Being an outsider trusted with inside knowledge, however, can be a great research asset (see also Powdermaker’s [1966] motif of stranger and friend).

    Third, very often, and especially in criminology, researchers believe that conducting effective research that crosses gender, ethnic, and class lines is nearly impossible. As a result, we often hire community-based research assistants to work with members of groups involved in illegal activities that we are interested in studying, or we at least attempt to match as many of our own identity markers as possible with those of our research participants. Gender is a particularly salient characteristic when considering the differences between a researcher and her research participants. When I give talks at criminological conferences, for instance, most people’s first question to me is often, “How could you do this research as a woman?” It is generally assumed that studying drug dealers or gang members is a dangerous activity that should be left to male fieldworkers. What goes unnoted, however, is that even male researchers studying male-dominated groups that engage in illegal or illicit activities often feel that they have to prove their masculinity by engaging in stereotypically masculine behavior. For example, Ferrell (1998) joined his participants in spray-painting graffiti and was eventually arrested. Bourgois (2003, 127–28, for example) engaged in alcohol consumption with his participants to facilitate more open conversations, and Venkatesh (2008) even climbed the ranks of the gang he was investigating to supposedly become a gang leader. Moreover, male researchers are often either suspected of being spies from rival gangs (Venkatesh 2008) or (p.204) undercover police officers (Bourgois 2003; Jacobs 1998). For the most part, I was not subjected to the same assumptions.9 Female researchers may not have to engage in such activities precisely because they are not expected to perform “manhood acts” (Schwalbe 2005). For example, my research participants never urged me to consume drugs or alcohol with them and even indicated that I would lose credibility were I to partake because of their bias that women ought not to consume drugs.

    In effect, being a female researcher who studies male-dominated groups occupied with illicit or illegal acts is not necessarily a liability to overcome; however, it does produce different points of access.10 It is not surprising that being a woman at once facilitated access (by permitting me to serve as a relationship counselor, for example) and also impeded it in other circumstances (I could not follow the young men into brothels and observe their interactions with sex workers, who were among their biggest cocaine clients). Overall, however, being a woman allowed me to participate in conversations about women and sex and to serve as a sexual educator whenever required, all of which helped me secure the young men’s confidence and respect. As a German woman, an identity upon which many in the group projected very particular and denigrating stereotypes, I could obtain certain information that a man or a non-German would likely not have been able to access. Importantly, the men I studied did not equate me with “the typical German robot woman” who, as Talat said, “only cares about her career, career, career and nothing else” and “never laughs, hates her children, and can’t cook at all.” In fact, they had trouble identifying me with all the negative and xenophobic connotations that they associated with what it meant to be “German,” particularly since my interest in the group signaled to the young men that I was not xenophobic.

    Unlike the assimilationist efforts the young men had experienced at school, my interactions with them never signaled a desire to promote their assimilation into German culture (Heitmeyer, Müller, and Schröder 1997, 21). They recognized over time that I was honestly interested in them, and they continuously asked me about “the book” (a phenomenon similarly encountered by Tertilt 1996, 81). In many ways, this study demonstrates that ethnographic research in criminological fields of inquiry across gender, ethnic, and class lines in fact opens up opportunities for gaining access and trust, and ultimately a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the research group. Researchers often make a mistake by assuming that the identity markers that render us outsiders will compromise our efficacy—that they are liabilities we must overcome. In fact, I discovered quite the opposite—these markers were key to garnering “insider” information and to facilitating effective research.


    (1) . While the social workers prepared the young men for my presence by telling them that a female social work intern would be at the community youth center, I immediately told the young men that I was interested in their lives and was hoping to write a book about them.

    (2) . Because the young men were heterogeneous with respect to their cultural backgrounds, they generally communicated in German, meaning that I did not have to learn another language to communicate with them (although some tried to teach me Turkish). Most of the young men said that they were more fluent in German than in their mother tongue. As Aissa said, “My parents have always spoken German to us. Bad German, but German. I always feel very awkward when visiting family in Morocco and not being able to communicate with them. It’s like: ‘Yeah, I am Moroccan, but I can’t speak and I’ve never lived here.’ They think you’re a total moron.”

    (3) . Later in the research process, I was able to wear whatever I wanted without being subjected to negative or sexualized comments.

    (4) . Whether or not flirting was happening was sometimes difficult to assess, because “flirting” seemed to follow different rules in the young men’s world than it did in mine. Many times, they told me about interactions with women that—in their minds—indicated that the respective women were interested in them, whereas I thought to myself: “I don’t think they are sending that message.” As such, I was often left wondering whether Georgio, for example, would perceive walking me to the train station as flirting. This ambiguity of interactions was also related to the fact that the young men did not have any heterosocial friendships—friendships with girls seemed out of the question for them. As such, we truly had to learn to negotiate a world in which we could interact that had not existed prior to my research.

    (5) . My role probably resembled that of Williams, who wrote, “I was kind of a big brother, able to help with homework and even babysitting, but most of all a willing and sympathetic listener” (Williams 1989, 17).

    (6) . However, even after having hung out with the young men for a few years and having established a strong rapport with them, they would state such stereotypical opinions in one-on-one conversations, underlining the reality that they did not only say such things to impress their friends or to initially scare me off.

    (7) . The young men used the term “Nazi” frequently and relatively loosely; they clearly did not mean Nazi in the World War II sense of the term. Instead, they used it to label different people, often Germans, who discriminated against them (i.e., immigrants). Using the term also reminded them and others of Germany’s past. By using the word that hurts the German conscience more than anything else, they essentially underlined the legitimacy of their assessment that Germany and Germans were, indeed, discriminating against them. At the end of the day, “Germany fucked up before.” (Akin) and so, in their eyes, it was not surprising that Germans were still discriminating against people that are different.

    (8) . I could not change their idea that a doctorate was exclusively reserved for medical doctors. Even after several years, some young men still inquired about when I would open my practice. In their mind, I was gaining practical experience by hanging out with them before becoming a psychotherapist. (As Ferdi said: “I am sure you could not get better experience than hanging out with these crazy people. I mean, they’re all fucked up and sick. You will have a very easy job when you start your practice.”) Even Özgur, the only young man who had actually received a high school degree that allowed him to go to university (see chapter 3) and who had a better insight into degrees and studies, always asked me for my input based on the fact that he saw me as a psychotherapist:


  • You understand that . . . all that psycho shit. So you need to help me understand why I am so aggressive.

  • I am not trained to do this.
  • ÖZGUR:

  • Of course, you are. You’re becoming a doctor. Come on, just see me as a patient.
  • (9) . At the very beginning of my research, a few of the core group members entertained the idea that I might be an undercover cop; however, they quickly dropped this conjecture, and I did not have to prove anything to dispute it. They essentially decided for themselves that I was not a police officer.

    (10) . Just as having a different ethnicity or class background would similarly impact one’s relationship with his or her research participants.