Transnational Fieldwork: Problems and Possibilities

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Kamini GRAHAME, Pennsylvania State University - Harrisburg, USA
I completed one of the early institutional ethnographies under Dorothy Smith’s supervision. The research focused on how immigrant Asian women in the U.S. came to be organized into the labor market via the employment training programs into which they were screened. In a subsequent study I aimed to uncover how it is that women of color in the U.S. were deemed “unorganized” in a mainstream feminist organization’s attempt to become inclusive—discourses of diversity and inclusion came to be essential conceptual currency in the organization’s attempt to garner funding for its work. Much of the work I do draws inspiration from a central tenet of Smith’s that we begin from experience to disclose the social relations of ruling, even when my studies do not turn into “classic IE.” Completing the first IE project led me to reflect on the ways in which my own life has been transformed in and through processes that have unfolded over the course of the latter part of the 20th century. Projects undertaken have interrogated transformations in family life for Indo-Trinidadians across three generations and though the research has not been classic IE work, nevertheless it has been informed by it. My more recent work is concerned with “transnational families,” focusing on Indo-Trinidadians who are dispersed across the U.S., Canada, the U.K. Basically, I seek to understand whether and how people manage and sustain “family” across borders. I have been working in 4 different national contexts (the U.S., U.K., Trinidad and Canada), tracing the processes which make it feasible for some but not for others. Citizenship, class, documented/undocumented status, and religious background, for example, shape families’ experiences in what can be sustained and what is potentially lost.