Based on fieldwork with migrants and border populations in Central America and the story of a young Congolese woman in particular, this article discusses how research participants’ use of mobile communication technology provokes a redefinition of the ethnographic field. Increasingly popular trajectory research often sets out to follow migrants, yet a focus on migrants keeping in touch with researchers at their own initiative and discretion, following them, reveals entanglements of selective on- and offline engagement and self-representation. Critical exploration of research participants’ differentiated use of digital technology for navigating a social environment that includes the researcher herself not only transforms our understanding of the field in empirical, ethical, and methodological terms, but also counteracts potentially voyeuristic and life-threatening practices of following people on the move

Central America, migrant journeys, mobile methods, navigation, online connectivity and disconnectivity, right to opacity, trajectory research,
Social Analysis
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Winters, S.W.S. (2021). Following, Othering, Taking Over: Research Participants Redefining the Field through Mobile Communication Technology. Social Analysis, 65(1), 133–142. doi:10.3167/sa.2021.650109