Ethnography at a distance: globally mobile parents choosing international schools

Martin Forsey, G. Breidenstein, O. Krüger, A. Roch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

© 2015 Taylor & Francis. The research we report on was conducted from our computer desktops. We have not met the people we have studied; they are part of what Eichhorn described as a “textual community”, gathered around the threads of online conversations associated with a website servicing the needs of English-language speakers in Germany. The thread in question started in 2008 with a query from someone about to move to Berlin, seeking advice about the best international school in which to enrol her three children. The ensuing conversations are revealing, not only because of the schools canvassed and the manner in which they are discussed, but also because of the schools that are not charted into the discussion. This paper raises questions about qualitative research methodologies in online settings, particularly in relation to studies of the global middle-class. It examines claims about an emerging commitment to “nonlocal ethnography” and the surmising one can make about research subjects one never meets, but who remain comprehensible because of the broader cultural context in which they are situated. The research carries the promise of “rich enough” ethnography, reflecting a commitment to understanding what people do, documenting and analysing the intricate realities influencing and shaping individual choices people make, the complexities they face and the realities they help create. The fact that it was done “at a distance”, in so-called virtual spaces, does not undermine its ethnographic authenticity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1112-1128
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education
Volume28
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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