conflict & communication online, Vol. 1, No. 2, 2002
ISSN 1618-0747




Wassilios Baros & Klaus-Dieter Reetz (Köln)
Social psychological reconstruction and empirical migration research

Empirical research in an intercultural context faces difficulties and challenges in regard to methods due to the particular characteristics of the research fields and the unique aspects of the various contexts involved. A method is needed which takes into account not only the relevance of the subjective standpoint, but also the complexity and dynamics of everyday life. Current techniques of text interpretation can be used only to a limited degree in the analysis of text material for intercultural studies: While purely descriptive approaches imply a correspondence between speech and worldview and thereby cannot capture possible differences between speech and changed life praxis in migration, other approaches for the analysis of latent meaning structures assume shared interpretive horizons and largely ignore the interactive dynamics and context of communication.
The method of social-psychological reconstruction as a text-interpretive procedure is conceived as based on the principles of interpretive psychology, and through the integration of action-theoretical and communication-theoretical approaches it makes possible a systematic analysis of human communication on various levels. While this method is often acknowledged in the frame of peace psychology research, its analytical potential has not been drawn on in migration research.
In this contribution the procedure of social-psychological reconstruction will be presented and the practical value of the method for empirical-qualitative migration research will be discussed.
The concrete approach of this procedure will be illustrated with a case example and on the basis of data from partner-centered discussions obtained in the frame of a qualitative study of the life situations of Greek migrant families. In our analysis we are concerned with discovering the different subjective forms of coping with migration. Taking into account the respective communication dynamic, latent meanings are captured and the rules are worked out according to which migrants construe their subjective reality and thereby individually master their societal alienation problems. Through an analysis of the extra-territorialized contents of communication, "suppressed" topics (e.g., the contradictoriness of a migration situation) can be captured.
The analysis shows that migrants try to resolve the contradictions in their respective life situation through individual forms of coping which from their viewpoint represent well-grounded answers, but in reality lead to an endless reproduction of their problem situation.
To expand the social-psychological reconstruction, the first attempts to hold a feed-back discussion are shown in order to make the interpretations achieved in the course of the overall research process the object of an argumentation process between participants (researchers and affected persons) and to make the new knowledge gained from this discourse fruitful for a continuation of the hermeneutic circle.


  full text in German  
On the authors: Wassilios Baros, Dr. pedagogy, b. 1969 in Giengen a.d. Brenz/Baden Württemberg. Teacher training at the University of Ioannina, Greece, further study in peace and conflict research and also mediation at the Distant Study University of Hagen, doctorate from the University of Cologne with a dissertation on "The relational network between Greek adolescents and their parents in a migration context," teaching position on the Pedagogical Faculty of the University of Cologne and research assistant at the Technical University of Cologne. Active in the working group "Forum for Empirical Migration Research." Main interests: qualitative research methods, intercultural pedagogy, conflict research.
Klaus-Dieter Reetz, Diploma Psychology, Diploma business manager, b. 1948 in Bad Schwartau/Schleswig-Holstein. Studied business management in Cologne, studied psychology at the University of Hamburg, PhD program of the Educational Science Faculty at the University of Cologne, dissertation on "School failure of Italian migrant children." Research assistant at the Therapeutic Pedagogy Faculty of the University of Cologne. Active in the working group "Forum for Empirical Migration Research." Main interests: qualitative research methods, critical psychology, learning theories, intercultural pedagogy.

Addresses: Wassilios Baros, Hansaring 52, D-50670 Köln, Deutschland. e-Mail:
Klaus-Dieter Reetz, Eifelstraße 12, D-50677 Köln, Deutschland. e-Mail: