ETHNOGRAPHIC FIELD LAB tracks the transnational in metropolitan Phoenix.
We explore global borders in the heart of the local urban community in this beyond-the-classroom ethnography course at Arizona State University.
Caught in the tension between the nation and the globe, metro Phoenix experiences a kind of dizzying "urban vertigo," perched on a transnational edge. This edge is our field site!
Designed as a practicum in qualitative ethnographic research and interpretative analysis in an interdisciplinary social science framework, the course engages students in its theme through qualitative research practica and hands-on urban ethnography. Transnational Phoenix serves as laboratory for our fieldwork, where students practice participant observation, interviews, mappings, visual & digital media excavations, and other ethnographic fieldwork strategies. In their web portfolios here, the students' social analysis of their observations address several key questions:
This course took us on an extraordinary collaborative adventure researching the global impact on the urban culture and social space of metro Phoenix. This semester we investigated the “border” around the city's Foreign Trade Zones & their benefits to global corporations, explored the impact of migrant and refugee communities on the social & built environments, tracked the localized global geography of global religions in temples and churches, pondered the global provenance of products, cuisines, the localization of ‘foreign’languages, and engaged the hyper-local response to globalization by looking at the locavore food movement and sustainable small-farm agriculture. We drove all over the Valley of the Sun!
Through our fieldwork observations, documentations, participations, mediations, meditations, peregrinations, conversations, fascinations, and mappings, we aimed to “make visible” some of the many global connections permeating our local communities. We learned to “read” the cultural landscape, the built environment, the ecology of human relations, the signs, iconography, and sentiments of the city and its inhabitants in all their local/global glory. Big-picture concerns drove our inquiry:
Students have shared their findings in the web portfolios presented here. We invite you to take a look, learn, enjoy!