My non-representative reaction

As you would expect, most women on the street in Bangladesh had their hair covered and quite a few had most of their faces covered. For the first couple of days I was in Bangladesh I was travelling on my own and I found myself wondering if more people had the opportunity to travel then perhaps support for ideas such banning certain face coverings would evaporate. After all, getting around with your face covered did not seem to stifle the personality of one lady I sat next to on a bus (or her ability to talk, although it turns out that the mini-phrase book at the back of the lonely planet is very useful when it comes to asking for a padlock but not so useful for a conversation about marriage).

Yet my reaction was not the only possible reaction. When I rejoined the people I had been travelling with they had reached the opposite conclusion. In fact, one of them was not really enjoying being in Bangladesh and she said that seeing so many of the few women in public all covered up made her angry. It turns out this person soon developed a fondness for Bangladesh and its people, but this experience does highlight some rather significant methodological considerations for my project.

Here were two outsiders in the same place, looking at the same thing but having completely different reactions. What is more is that the travel companion in the story and I share a lot in common. We are both female, of similar ages and similar education, she has travelled a little more than me and spent some time living in a different state to me in recent years, but we have had almost identical upbringings.

It is not so much that I think my first interpretation is the only or the right one, I do have some insight into research methodology. My question is, how does anybody have enough time to work out what groups share common enough reactions to be used as the basis for sampling? Lucky for me I am not doing focus groups or trying to use a fancy quota method of sampling.



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