Newcomers in New York: Musings on Methods

Cadena Belski - New York - Newcomer Students

The anthropology of yore is gone— whereby researchers would go to the island to observe “the natives” and upon returning to the “real world,” share all that was learned of the other  while in “the field.”  With the advents of technology and the increasingly globalized world, there are no more islands left untouched — and so the necessity for and the rules of — ethnography have changed.  And I think it’s a good thing.

While most modern anthropologists agree that their predecessors’ approaches and methodologies were not without their faults, they must acknowledge their contributions along with the controversies.  The contemporary anthropologist, however, is not without adversity or critique.  Along with the introduction of advanced technologies and new forms of communication comes the potential for infinite possibilities for shaping research and everyday lives.  This is the discourse with which I dance.

The blog is an interactive form of communication/ social media in publicly accessible format.  It is what I am incorporating into my methodology.  The fact that the “informants/participants” are able to consciously and intentionally contribute to the blog opens an entire new set of questions; questions I still do not have the answers to, because like my predecessors, Malinowski and Geertz, I am figuring out the perimeters. 

One of the components of my methodology, which I have learned from and in response to said predecessors, is the notion of transparency and accessibility.  The idea that the research process is not a secret, that it is flawed and human, is important.  Anthropologists study humans.  Anthropologists are human.  By posting to the blog, I am sharing the process of the research with the participants and the public.  Research can and should be shared beyond the walls of academia.

Furthermore, the participants are made aware of their participation to every extent possible and are actively collaborating.  My hope is that not only are they aware of the process and contributing to it with the new means afforded by technology — they are learning from this experience and sharing it beyond the scope of the research and project.  The concept that the participants are collaborating on how the public interacts with them, their stories, and ideas is imperative, but I also believe the participants should be receiving.  I have attempted to address this through the skill development workshops.  By learning how to use all of the media and technology that can and will be a part of this blog, they are gaining experience using tools and ideas that they will carry with them long after the project is over — and hopefully are having fun while doing it!

The Summer After Photography Workshop: Running Through Trees from mar cadena on Vimeo.

What I am asking them to do is not easy — for them to share publicly, in “real time,” their life stories, opinions, and ideas.  I know this.

I am continually impressed by their bravery, their candor, and their commitment  to sharing their experiences in hopes of positively changing the lives of immigrant youth like them.

And so I invite you to follow blog, to comment, and share stories, thoughts and ideas with us.  We would love to hear from you.

Posted by Marisa Cadena Belski, MA Candidate at CLACS, NYU

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