Accepted paper:

Collaborating between digital and real-world fieldsites: the case of Moroccan networks in Istanbul


Christian Ritter (Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

Exploring the case of Moroccan networks in Istanbul, I reflect on collaborative research practices supporting ways of reciprocal exchange between ethnographers and researched communities. The main aim of this paper is to explore the challenges that digitised communication imposed on fieldwork.

Paper long abstract:

Following the free trade agreement between Morocco and Turkey in 2006, increasing numbers of Moroccan nationals traveled to the Turkish metropolis Istanbul. This paper examines how social networking technologies changed the ways of conducting fieldwork and reflects on the moral consequences these changes engender. Moroccan migrants come to Istanbul with various motivations ranging from transnational trade and immigration to education and transmigration. The main aim of this paper is to explore the challenges that digitised communication imposed on fieldwork. Based on participant observation and semi-structured interviewing, the ethnographic study unveils the prevalence of social networking technologies amongst Moroccan residents of Istanbul. In addition, the paper raises methodological challenges that occurred in the course of the fieldwork in the metropolis due to the ubiquitous digitalization of lifeworlds. For example, the methodological ideal of establishing an equilibrium between proximity to and distance from the researched communities necessitates a substantial rethinking since clear-cut boundaries of fieldsites vanished and social networking technologies increasingly interconnect various fieldsites. Fieldwork-based research thus includes both face-to-face interactions and online communication. During my fieldwork in Istanbul, I combined participation in real-world events with observation of activities in digital spaces and experienced a wide range of dependences from local hospitality to digital friendship. Based on my fieldwork experience, I reflect on the ethics of reciprocal fieldwork and the ownership of ethnographic information by shedding light on strategies for mutual research, such as collaborative blogging.

panel P09
Hospitality, dependence and mutuality: negotiating positionality and methodologies in the Middle East