Rapport, Respect, Lisa K. Waldner: Vitae 7 and Dissonance: Studying the White Power Movement in the United States
Justice and Society Studies
sexual coercion, sexual harassment
We examine the advantages and disadvantages of conducting fieldwork with the highly stigmatized white power movement in the United States and ultimately argue that this work is important to achieve a more complete understanding of racist movements. Typically, the relationship between researcher and those studied involves the building of trust and rapport. In the case of highly stigmatized white power members, how much rapport should one develop? Does developing rapport with racist respondents provide legitimacy to such movements? How does the researcher handle the internal dissonance of building rapport with racist respondents in spite of deeply held beliefs opposing racism? We consider these questions along with techniques of rapport building. We discuss several sociological concepts that assist in understanding researcher discomfort and the strategies used to handle cognitive dissonance and stigma. We review what other researchers have written about the issues raised here and share our own experiences. We argue that an in-depth analysis of the movement is more difficult without interacting with movement members. Attending white power rallies, meetings, or celebrations, provides a better grasp on how and why these events occur, as well as the implications for society.