Giving voice with performative research methods: A view inside Austrian immigration detention.

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Over the last few years, the worldwide significance of immigration detention has increased substantially. Yet, immigration detention centres remain under-researched places, even though their role is highly controversial and deeply debated. In this article, we report on our study of Austrian immigration removal detention centres, where asylum seekers with a negative asylum decision are detained prior to their deportation. We focus on one specific participatory method used, the so-called vignette-based focus group. By referring to Judith Butler’s linked concepts of performativity and vulnerability, we analyse the relationship between the two main groups within the centres: the detainees and the police. We show how the method of vignette-based focus groups can be understood to be performative in the sense that the research process itself changed the empirical situation. In this case, the mutual exchange of perspectives between the police officers and the detainees that took place in the focus groups altered the attitudes of both groups to one another, by highlighting their mutual reliance on one another on the level of everyday interaction. In this respect, our study is an example of the potential for performative research – not merely for investigating power asymmetries but also for altering relationships on an interactive level (the handling of the actual rules and routines), in spite of structural power asymmetries and usual dichotomies."
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 504001 General sociology
  • 504007 Empirical social research
  • 504
  • 504024 Sociology of law
  • 504014 Gender studies
  • 507021 Urban history

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