Dr. Kai Marquardsen on social inequality in Germany

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Interview by Georg Meggers
Kai Marquardsen, 49, is Professor of Poverty and Social Inequality at Kiel University of Applied Sciences. Local street paper Hempels spoke to him about his research.
Hempels: Where does your research usually take place?
Kai Marquardsen: Together with a research group consisting of staff from the University and the Diakonie Schleswig-Holstein, I have visited people affected by poverty to find out from them how they cope with their everyday lives – and what possible ways out of poverty are.
For this purpose, we interviewed a total of 20 people from all districts of Schleswig-Holstein: women and men, old and young people, people with and without a migration background.
Did people find it easy to talk to you about their experiences of poverty?
Poverty is stigmatised; no one wants to admit to being affected. Therefore, we needed an environment where people felt comfortable. We met most of them in their homes, but some of them asked us to meet them somewhere else – in a bar, for example.
Many participants were happy to tell their own story to an external person – because we do not come from their personal environment and evaluate the results anonymously, they could be vulnerable and very open with us. They were able to get something off their chest in the conversations and put things in their lives into context.
Keeping a scientific distance is a challenge. During the interviews, we keep a low profile, because our method is the biographical interview: that is, we let people tell us about their lives without interrupting them.
But after the interviews, personal conversations also arise – simply from person to person. You can’t remain completely neutral then because they are often sad and moving stories.

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