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Workshop Multisited Ethnography

netmapBy Leonore van den Ende I recently took part in a workshop on ‘Multisited Ethnography’ at the VU given by Professor Nina Glick Schiller, a prominent anthropologist in the branch of migrant studies. I took part in this workshop because for the past two years I have been uncertain about the ‘ethnographicness’ of my PhD research. My research, in organizational anthropology, is about the practice and meaning of transition rituals in project-based organizations. Specifically, I studied six momentous transition rituals in three different projects in the Netherlands, where I have ‘zoomed in’ on each ritual followed by a process of ‘zooming out’ to relate the ritual observations back to each project and its unique history, prospect and context. Though I engaged in participant-observation during each transition ritual, I could not do so to the same extent at each project as they are large-scale, multi-sited organizational constructs. I had to accept that I could not be everywhere at once and therefore had to make conscious decisions concerning my research sites and sources of data.

The rest of my research entailed conducting interviews with a wide variety of ritual organizers, actors and attendees, and obtaining sufficient information about each project via a desk study and by visiting information centers, open days and project excursions. In other words, I have not conducted ethnographic research in the traditional sense as my research was temporally and spatially diverse and interspersed. This raised questions and doubts concerning the legitimacy of my ethnographic method. Some might call it ‘hit-and-run ethnography’ whereas others claim this form of multisited research is a development of ethnography that better suites our contemporary, globalizing societies and more complex research sites. This led me to question; what is it that makes a research ‘ethnographic’ as such?

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