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Researching Undocumented Women in Transit. Challenges and Strategies of Fieldwork on the Mexican Border

Speakers: Alejandra Díaz de León (University of Essex) and María E. López (London Metropolitan University)
Chair: Claire Griffiths (Chester)

Our research examines the mechanisms by which migrant women move forward and maintain their agency and autonomy, challenging the expansive notion of migrant women as victims. To this end, we have been travelling in 2023-24 to three major urban 'enclaves' (Turner 2010) in Mexico - Tapachula, Mexico City and Tijuana – where the journeys of  migrant women are delayed. However, far from being stuck, they build social networks and survive. In our presentation, we will discuss the ethical, practical, and emotionalaspects of interviewing extremely vulnerable migrant women in these cities. We will reflect on the strategies we use to protect them while allowing them to share their fears,hopes and strategies for navigating the dangers of the migration process

María López is Professor of Sociology and Deputy Director of the Global Diversities and Inequalities Research Centre (London Metropolitan University). María co-authored Gender Violence in Twenty-First-Century Latin American Women’s Writing (Tamesis, 2022), authored Homosexuality and Invisibility in Revolutionary Cuba (Tamesis, 2015) and researches for a book on the violence against migrant women transiting through Mexico.
Dr Alejandra Díaz de León is an Assistant Professor in Sociology at the Center for Sociological Studies at El Colegio de México. She is the author of Walking Together: Central Americans and Transit Migration through Mexico (University of Arizona Press 2023) and the article Resignation and Resistance: How do Undocumented Central American Migrants View Detention in Mexico? (2023). She is working on a project on climate change and humanitarianism.  

The focus of the Behind-the-Scenes seminar series is an exploration of the processes we engage with on the journey towards producing the published research output, covering all the stages involved in fieldwork in geographical, virtual or un-sited fields. From the aspirations and expectations that precede fieldwork, through the messy and unpredictable circumstances of conducting the research, the scope of the series is wide and includes research design; funding; logistical preparations for engaging in fieldwork, dealing with unexpected challenges; the emotional impacts of the work, the multiple rewards of fieldwork collaborations, methods for analysing, cataloguing, and storing information during fieldwork, along with information retrieval from fieldwork. And in the aftermath of fieldwork, the series covers how we engage with the tortuous process of selecting what goes into the final polished output, which invariably includes excising valuable insights accumulated during fieldwork in the process. Behind-the-Scenes is a space where we can look at all those facets of fieldwork, including those which often remain unexplored and unspoken.

Seminar Sessions:
Wed 15 Nov 2023:
From border to border: volunteering, photo-voicing, listening, and here we go again!
Wed 6 Dec 2023:
Anxieties and Excitements of Archival Work: Some Considerations
Wed 31 Jan 2024:
Collaboration is a two-way road, or regarding ethnographic work with antagonistic institutions
Wed 13 Feb 2024: Postponed
Fieldwork with Indigenous Amazigh Communities
Fri 23 Feb 2024 (practical - hands on session):
Practical approaches to using participatory photography in research
Wed 13 March 2024:
Researching Undocumented Women in Transit. Challenges and Strategies of Fieldwork on the Mexican Border
Wed 24 April 2024:
The sound of amateur cinema: collections, oral history, experimentation workshops

All are welcome to attend this free seminar series. You will need to register in advance for each session to receive the online joining link. Please click on the Book Now button at the top of the page to register for the seminar taking place on Wed 13 March 2024.