Follow the Migrant: Empirical insights and Ethical Concerns of a Mobile Methodology
By Joris Schapendonk (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Globalisation, Transnationalism and Development Colloquium organised in association with Maastricht Centre for Citizenship, Migration and Development (MACIMIDE)
Discussant: Bilisuma Dito (Maastricht University)
The recent paradigmatic shift from the ‘sedentary’ to the ‘mobile’ (Sheller and Urry 2006) has led to several methodological challenges for social scientists. Main questions are: 1) how can we grasp the mobility of people/goods/ideas? And; 2) does mobility research inevitably imply that researchers have to be mobile too? This paper critically discusses the opportunities and pitfalls of mobile methodologies. The first part reviews a variety of mobile research designs and mobile methods used in different disciplines. The second part specifically focuses on my longitudinal research aiming to understand the dynamics of the migration trajectories of sub-Saharan African migrants who move to and in the European Union. In this second part, I combine insights from my PhD-research (2007-2011) with the design of my current VENI project (2014-2018). It outlines the specific research strategies and discusses the extent to which the following of migrants lead to complementary/different results compared to non-mobile research designs. Finally, I reflect on some ethical dilemmas that have emerged in my mobility research (e.g. does the following of migrants increase the traceability of their trajectories, and what does this mean?).
Joris Schapendonk is a human geographer working at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. His research focuses on sub-Saharan African mobilities, transnational migration & borders, informal spaces in European cities, and bottom-up globalization processes. His PhD thesis (2007-2011) is a qualitative study on the fragmented journeys of sub-Saharan African migrants heading for Europe. After his PhD he started to work at International Development Studies (Utrecht University). In 2013 he was appointed Assistant Professor at Geography, Planning, and Environment Department of Radboud University. In 2014 he received a VENI grant for his research project entitled Fortress Europe as a Mobile Space? His research is published in several academic journals (e.g. Annals of American Geographers 2014, Societies 2012, Tijdschrift for Sociale en Economische Geografie 2012, Population, Space and Place 2014).
Upcoming GTD colloquia:
-Wednesday 19 November: Ronald Skeldon (Sussex Center for Migration Research, University of Sussex)
-Wednesday 26 November: Mirjam De Bruin (Center for African Studies, Leiden University)
-Wednesday 14 January: José Luis Molina (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona)