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Deep Ethnography, Transnational Social Movements and Vulnerable Populations (Talk at University of Connecticut)

I gave a talk today in the Latin American Studies Seminar Series at the University of Connecticut, hosted by and sponsored by UNESCO Chair and Institute of Comparative Human Rights, El Instituto: Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies, the Department of History and the Department of Political Science. The audience (graduate students and fellow professors from a variety of departments) was very lively and I had really great feedback. Dr. Mark Healey was kind enough to host me and introduce me (with perhaps the best introduction I have ever had in my entire academic career!). Anyway, I promised I would post the slides to my talk, and here they are. I am also including the abstract for the talk.

Ethnographic inquiry (the study of social and political phenomena using qualitative methodologies, especially in-depth observation) has recently come under strong scrutiny given the ethical, methodological and substantive challenges in its recent implementation. Studying survival behavior of extremely vulnerable populations using ethnographic methods presents different issues to the examination of activist strategies of transnational social movements. In this talk, I share my experience studying transnational environmental non-governmental organizations’ mobilization strategies and compare it with my recent analyses of informal waste pickers’ strategic choices across a broad range of Latin American and European countries. In the talk, I address both the substantive issues of undertaking comparative public policy studies across different target populations, and the peculiarities of fieldwork in two very different environments. I draw some preliminary conclusions on what we can learn about ethnographic methodology and how we can address the ethical issues within deep ethnography.

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