Ethnographic interviews: consumer negotiations

This research was conducted as a part of the PhD thesis (abstract) on the Urban Indian middle class in India that has undergone tremendous changes in their lives due to the simple fact of increased income levels and thereby increases in disposable incomes. One way to look at this change would be to look at economic data and another one is to look at it from a qualitative standpoint and see what is happening in people’s lives. People make negotiations on an everyday basis with this new disposable income as they utilize it in a market place. I looked at how a citizen focused middle class slowly took on the shape of a consumer focused middle class; how a family driven by limited incomes in one lifetime, moves into a consumption focus with their children’s lives and the process of this negotiation.

Ethnographic interviews utilized for this purpose brought in interesting concepts that weave through the process of negotiations and bring in some interesting insights using consumption theory. The research methods used were interviews based on a uniform question bank that was utilized throughout the research process. The question bank was created based on the north-American consumption theory, on National Sample Survey data of India and the observable changes in the social milieu at the time.

The research was conducted as part of the doctoral thesis with 150+ interviews audio recorded, transcribed and coded for analysis based on theory.

Picture Courtesy: The Hindu

Published by Hema Malini

I am a trained sociologist and an archival researcher. I am the principal investigator for an archival research project on the Brahma Kshatriyas of Hyderabad and also founder of choosingwellness.org. I also go by my other name Malini. I am a translator of notes that remain in the margins to bring the user of technologies into sharper focus. I use the term community researcher, immersive researcher to talk about the work I do. In the past, as a Director and user experience lead at Code for Princeton I worked with non-profits, community groups, users, and subject matter experts to identify areas of need. I translated this into conversations with brigade members, developers, potential users, and other stakeholders. The applied ethnography and social research skills got me to meet with a diverse set of people across the broad middle class spectrum in Urban India. Living and working in New Jersey for the past several years has given me a breadth and width of understanding and engaging with people adding critical diversity to my bracket of "users" and experience all rolled in one.

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