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The Migrant Ethnographer: When the Field Becomes Home

Urban Ethnography

ISBN: 978-1-78769-034-9, eISBN: 978-1-78769-033-2

ISSN: 1047-0042

Publication date: 22 October 2019


For migrant urban ethnographers who study their city of settlement, ethnography may have a double meaning, serving not only as an approach to understanding a city academically but also a pathway to connecting with a community more broadly and personally, a type of personal place making. This chapter uses the experiences of the author – an American working and living in Shanghai and Tokyo for over 20 years – to show how his evolving practice of the ethnography of the city relates to a slow process of coming to live purposefully in it. The chapter also details a migrant’s perspective on the ethnography of sexuality, nightlife and foodways in urban Asia. The insider-outsider relationship that the migrant ethnographer brings to the city may be viewed as both burden and asset. As transnational migrants, migrant ethnographers can perform as institutional mediaries who connect researchers across borders and as educational facilitators who help migrant students discover means of associating with an unfamiliar environment. In short, ethnography may be a way of living as well as learning.



Farrer, J. (2019), "The Migrant Ethnographer: When the Field Becomes Home", Urban Ethnography (Research in Urban Sociology, Vol. 16), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 193-211.



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