End-of-Year Fellowship Report for 2003-04.
The project for my fellowship, entitled “Bridges Across Distance: Mexico-U.S. Migrants’ Communication with Home,” was originally a broadly conceived project on communications between Mexican migrants and those at home, primarily centered on how Mexican migrants use the internet. I increasingly focused more specifically than I had expected, however, on what I call Mexican “hometown homepages.” Hometown homepages are websites set up, usually by Mexican immigrants in the United States, to showcase information about their hometown and to provide a place for people from the town, living in the town, or connected to the town, migrant or nonmigrant, to meet and communicate on the internet by posting messages, photos, and news. While there is quite a bit of variation across these websites, they have a number of elements in common that highlight particular aspects of identity and nostalgia.
My project is somewhat complex in that it is at the border of several disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, psychology, communications, and internet studies. It is that complexity, however, that I find most exciting. Much of the time of my fellowship was devoted to a wide-ranging literature review encompassing those disciplines mentioned. Research at the intersection of migration and the internet is just beginning (a nice contrast to my other research projects in more well-developed areas of study), so my literature review necessarily touched on many subjects related to, but not specifically about, migrants and the internet. For example, I read extensively about the nature of communication on the internet, issues of access to the internet, migrant communication via phone and letters, memory and nostalgia, identity, perceptions of migrants by those left behind, etc.
I also conducted preliminary data collection, aimed primarily at searching for as many hometown homepages as possible and getting a sense of what the pages entail and how much variation exists. I seem to have been fairly successful in tracking down homepages, and of course continue to watch for them. I ran into technological difficulties in trying to save copies of websites (a necessity due to the rapid change in webpages). I tried several different programs intended for that purpose, with mixed results. Most of the material I was able to save intact, but some of the more dynamic web elements were lost. I am now working my way inductively through the gigabytes of material.
I am currently working on a paper aimed at migration scholars, “Mexican Migrants and the Internet,” in which I relate recent internet studies to the experiences and practices of Mexico-U.S. migrants. A second paper is branching off from there, in which I am analyzing the characteristics and uses of Mexican hometown homepages. The results of that paper will influence the next stages of the project; I do already have preliminary plans to survey the owners of the hometown homepages.
The fellowship influenced my research in a number of ways. The monthly seminars and the visiting speakers helped me to broaden my thinking about my own research in general, and my individual interactions. Several of the other fellows provided even more intense intellectual stimulation, often involving feedback specifically on my project. Perhaps most valuable, though, was the amount of time I had because of a reduced teaching load; it would have been very difficult to get this project underway without having the luxury of extra time.
Book review published
Espinosa, Kristin E. Review of The Changing Face of Home: The Transnational Lives of the Second Generation, edited by Peggy Levitt and Mary C. Waters. Contemporary Sociology 33(3):338-339.
Submitted for publication to American Art (peer reviewed):
Espinosa, Kristin E. And Victor M Espinosa. “Martin Ramirez: Biography and Mystery in Outsider Art.”
Espinosa, Kristin E., and Victor M. Espinosa. “Martin Ramirez: Biography and Mystery in Outsider Art.” To be presented at the 2004 meetings of the American Sociological Association, August 14-17, San Francisco, CA.