Chapter 16: Diasporas on the Web: New Networks, New Methodologies
Jonathan Crush, Cassandra Eberhardt, Mary Caesar, Abel Chikanda, Wade Pendleton and Ashley Hill1 This chapter reviews new methodologies that embrace the connectivity of diasporas, the emergence of social media and the potential of online surveys for research purposes. The recent focus on diasporas by migration researchers has highlighted the rich potential of migrants as a force for shaping development activities in their countries of origin (Brinkerhoff, 2008; Cohen, 2008; Merz et al., 2008; Plaza and Ratha, 2011; Sorensen, 2007). The study of diasporas in development has also presented researchers with a number of significant conceptual and methodological challenges.2 As Vertovec and Cohen (1999, p. xiii) suggest, ‘one of the major changes in migration patterns is the growth of populations anchored (socially and culturally as well as physically) neither at their places of origin nor at their places of destination’. Further, as Lavie and Swedenburg (1996, p. 14) note: ‘The phenomenon of diasporas calls for re-imagining the “areas” of area studies and developing units of analysis that enable us to understand the dynamics of transnational cultural and economic processes, as well as to challenge the conceptual limits imposed by national and ethnic/racial boundaries’. The fluid, multi-sited and multi-generational nature of diaspora groupings poses considerable methodological challenges of definition, identification, location, sampling, interviewing and data analysis and interpretation. As the nature of global diasporas is constantly in flux, the methodologies we use to study them should likewise be fluid (Cohen, 2008). In practice, traditional approaches to research design, participant recruitment and data...
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