Decolonizing Ethnography

Undocumented Immigrants and New Directions in Social Science

Decolonizing Ethnography

Book Pages: 208 Illustrations: 7 illustrations Published: May 2019

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies

In August 2011, ethnographers Carolina Alonso Bejarano and Daniel M. Goldstein began a research project on undocumented immigration in the United States by volunteering at a center for migrant workers in New Jersey. Two years later, Lucia López Juárez and Mirian A. Mijangos García—two local immigrant workers from Latin America—joined Alonso Bejarano and Goldstein as research assistants and quickly became equal partners for whom ethnographic practice was inseparable from activism. In Decolonizing Ethnography the four coauthors offer a methodological and theoretical reassessment of social science research, showing how it can function as a vehicle for activism and as a tool for marginalized people to theorize their lives. Tacking between personal narratives, ethnographic field notes, an original bilingual play about workers' rights, and examinations of anthropology as a discipline, the coauthors show how the participation of Mijangos García and López Juárez transformed the project's activist and academic dimensions. In so doing, they offer a guide for those wishing to expand the potential of ethnography to serve as a means for social transformation and decolonization.


"I think the book would be useful for undergraduate classes to understand an engaged 'anthropology' and the issues of representativeness, collaboration, and voice to which anthropologists need to attend. Further, it provides a kind of a guide to the necessity of political organization in contexts of great need and repression." — Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez, City & Society

"[Decolonizing Ethnography] offers an innovative way in which ethnography, practiced by the people who have been traditionally positioned as the ethnographic research objects, can be a powerful tool of self-empowerment, public advocacy, and personal transformation." — Kheira Arrouche, LSE Review of Books

"Decolonizing Ethnography does not just critique colonialist academic practices, it seeks to do something different. ... Accessibly written, interesting, and effectively argued, [this book] will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in issues of migration, activism, ethnography, and knowledge production. ... Perhaps most importantly, Decolonizing Ethnography is a call to anthropology to reconsider its purpose and expand its relevance with research practices that redress the politicized nature of anthropological research and of the social worlds in which our research takes place." — Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz, Anthropological Quarterly

"This work demonstrates specifically an exemplary form of ethnographic writing not necessarily as a model to follow, but as an encouragement and license to expand the direction of critical and reflexive thought that has been ascendant in American ethnographic research for the past 30 years. There are many lively 'moves' in expressing the vitality of this collaboration, none more powerful and exciting than the concluding script of activist theater. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty." — G. E. Marcus, Choice

"For occupational science as a field of study increasingly concerned with highlighting the daily experiences of Global South and marginalised groups, this book should be a valuable inspiration and guide. As a Eurocentric discipline, we have a way to go in decolonising theory production and the means by which we do so. This text may inspire us to continue on the path of liberation for our discipline and the communities with whom we study and collaborate." — Juman Simaan, Journal of Occupational Science

Decolonizing Ethnography provides an excellent background on engaged scholarship and a roadmap for how one team overcame hierarchies to collaborate across difference. It is an excellent tool for training students to design community-embedded research and will be useful for a range of syllabi (it’s already on mine!). The book also offers the rare chance to see undocumented worker-activists as scholars and authors, and that itself is a gift.” — Abigail Andrews, Ethnic and Racial Studies

“As a collaboration, this book both advocates for and puts into practice data gathering and reporting techniques that continue to stand in opposition to anthropology’s standard modes of research. The book’s clarity of writing, its resolute tone had this reviewer conduct some soul-searching about her own position vis-à-vis the decolonial challenge.” — Nora Haenn, Anthropos

“The day-to-day activities of these decolonial researchers take center stage, offering a rarely seen glimpse of politically engaged ethnographic research practice. The authors' self-reflexive and openhearted contribution will be much welcomed. This outstanding book will make an important impact.” — Angela Stuesse, author of Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South

“The authors present a compelling argument that ethnography can promote community engagement and empowerment while pursuing social justice. Decolonizing Ethnography is an innovative and insightful book.” — Susan Bibler Coutin, author of Exiled Home: Salvadoran Transnational Youth in the Aftermath of Violence


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Price: $24.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Carolina Alonso Bejarano is Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick, School of Law . She is also a DJ and an editor, translator and collective member of Sangría Editora.

Lucia López Juárez is an activist who fights for equal rights for all people, a domestic worker, and a mother who cares for her home.

Mirian A. Mijangos García is a singer, songwriter, and naturopath. She is also a mother, an ethnographer, and an immigrants' rights activist.

Daniel M. Goldstein is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Rutgers University and author of Owners of the Sidewalk: Security and Survival in the Informal City, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
"broken poem"  ix
Preface  xi
Acknowledgments  xv
Introduction  1
1. Colonial Anthropology and Its Alternatives  17
2. Journeys toward Decolonizing  38
3. Reflections on Fieldwork in New Jersey  59
4. Undocumented Activist Theory and a Decolonial Methodology  78
5. Undocumented Theater: Writing and Resistance  101
Conclusion  136
Notes  149
References  161
Index  179
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0395-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0362-5