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Observer on the move: Shadowing ethnography of ethnic flexibility in NYC

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Negrón, R. (2014). Observer on the move: Shadowing ethnography of ethnic flexibility in NYC. MMG Working Paper, (14-04).

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0018-F437-B
I will present an analysis of mobile shadowing ethnography, a research approach that dynamically engages body, mind, and sensibilities in research on how ethnicity is lived and performed in one of the world’s most diverse locales: NYC. During fifteen months of fieldwork throughout NYC, I shadow observed eleven Latinos as they invoked multiple ethnicities. Walking with them, I came to know NYC as a system of neighborhoods, socioeconomic regions, networks of relationships, and a series of encounters. Each participant served as my guides to NYC as I explored how their ethnic identities were shaped by multiple modes of difference. I argue that moving in and through a city’s spaces – physical, socio-cultural, and interactional – sharpens the researchers sensibilities to local manifestations of continuity, change, and complexity that is spurred by globalization. I discuss the advantages of the shadowing ethnographic approach for studying how intense diversity is experienced and negotiated in everyday city life. I further point to some of the ways that life in diverse urban places shape the development of ethnic flexibility.