How can we investigate migration through the lens of local policy? What strategies and negotiation skills are required to ethnographically explore the everyday interactions between social practitioners and migrant "users"? Based on ethnographic experiences carried out in the Emilia-Romagna region, the paper aims to discuss particular research methods developed in doing fieldwork within the institutional arrangements of local organizations, actors and policies which played a significant role in immigrant incorporation into the receiving society. Debating multiple negotiations and strategies adopted to investigate public policies "from below", the paper focuses on the issues of obtaining access to the migrant service industry and gaining trust in relations with local practitioners and migrants who daily negotiate rights and resources within the multicultural arena. While the ethnographer finds him/herself in the difficult position of collecting data by going deep into the contrasts emerging within the field, ethnographic work calls for critical insight into "politics of identity" taking into account how multiple informant’s ideas and expectations can shape anthropological knowledge. Facing multiple dilemmas, the researcher gains a privileged position where he/she can discover social practitioners’ languages, ambivalent representations and working experiences, as well as investigate the processes through which local policies can be translated into discriminatory practices toward migrants, contributing to normalize their symbolic exclusion in multicultural Italian society.
Keywords: Ethnography, policies, service industry; migrant users, field.