Gatekeeping: an obstacle to criminological research with Indian youth drug users in Chatsworth, KwaZulu-Natal.
Gopal, Nirmala D.
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Every research study has a story and this article tells the story of the researchers’ challenges in accessing participants for a study. Thus this article draws on the researchers’ experiences with gatekeeping dilemmas while attempting to research drug addiction among a select sample of youth in a historically Indian township in Kwa Zulu Natal. The article highlights the challenges in gaining access to an Indian sample of drug users. Some of the reasons depart from the premise that perhaps the most challenging factor is that most of the populations relevant to the study of drug addiction, such as under age youth, traffickers, suppliers and or drug lords, constitute so-called hidden populations. Heckathorn (1997), argues that “A hidden population is a group of individuals, whose membership in hidden populations often involves stigmatized or illegal behaviour, leading individuals to refuse to co-operate, or give unreliable answers to protect their privacy.” Consequently for this empirical study attempting to ‘research’ a ‘hidden population’ resulted in challenges not necessarily observed with other research topics. This research argues through a theoretical framework how gatekeeping challenges may impact ‘important’ research agendas. This research article further highlights principal gatekeeping challenges associated with research in the field of illicit drug use which is the focus of this research article. This is done through reflections on the researchers’ methodological journey namely gaining access to a relevant sample. The article concludes with suggestions for researchers attempting research with ‘hidden populations’ in future criminological research. This article explores some of the issues that researchers should consider when carrying out research with Gypsy-Travellers.