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Deep Ethnography, Transnational Social Movements and Vulnerable Populations

Deep Ethnography, Transnational Social Movements and Vulnerable Populations

methodologies, especially in-depth observation) has recently come under strong scrutiny given the ethical, methodological and substantive challenges in its recent implementation. Studying survival behavior of extremely vulnerable populations using ethnographic methods presents different issues to the examination of activist strategies of transnational social movements. In this talk, I share my experience studying transnational environmental non-governmental organizations’ mobilization strategies and compare it with my recent analyses of informal waste pickers’ strategic choices across a broad range of Latin American and European countries. In the talk, I address both the substantive issues of undertaking comparative public policy studies across different target populations, and the peculiarities of fieldwork in two very different environments. I draw some preliminary conclusions on what we can learn about ethnographic methodology and how we can address the ethical issues within deep ethnography.

Raul Pacheco-Vega

October 20, 2015
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  1. Deep Ethnography, Transnational Social Movements and Vulnerable Populations DR. RAUL

    PACHECO-VEGA CENTRO DE INVESTIGACIÓN Y DOCENCIA ECONÓMICAS (CIDE) LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES SEMINAR SERIES UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT, STORRS. OCTOBER 19TH, 2015
  2. Ethnography as method  Ethnographic inquiry  Study of social

    and political phenomena using qualitative methodologies, especially in-depth participant observation  Has recently come under strong scrutiny. There are ethical, methodological and substantive challenges in its recent implementation  In this talk I share my experiences using ethnography as a research method comparing two very distinct target populations.
  3. Ethnographic research in political science o Studying survival behavior of

    extremely vulnerable (waste picking) populations using ethnographic methods offers different challenges than the examination of activist strategies of transnational social movements. o Up until recently, ethnography had been pretty much shunned by quantitativist/positivist political science (Wedeen 2010), though some key scholars in public administration/PoliSci have recently praised its value (Rhodes 2015) and emphasized why it’s valuable
  4. Two projects The global politics of informal waste picking (2012-

    2016)  Understanding the relational dynamics of municipal governments with their waste picker populations. 2012-2015 Fieldwork in 13 cities in 8 countries Paris (France), Madrid (Spain), Aguascalientes, Leon (Mexico), Milan, Venice (Italy), Vancouver, Calgary (Canada), Tokyo, Mishima (Japan), Montevideo (Uruguay), Washington DC, Los Angeles (USA)  Spectrum of relationships (cooperative- confrontational) Activist strategies in the North American context (2000-2015)  Understanding transnational NGO coalition building strategies and mechanisms of influence in domestic environmental policy-making.  1999-2001 Participated in every single meeting of the PRTR/RETC project as an observer. Interviewed/observed over 30 ENGOs at 8 different sites.  2001-2015 Followed up on activist strategies and domestic implementation of PRTR
  5. Transnational environmental NGOS in North America Been closely studying the

    Commission for Environmental Cooperation since 1999 (NA-PRTR Project). Mexico changed from voluntary PRTR reporting to mandatory Strong pressure from ENGOs  Transnational coalition-building strategies  Second-order pressure transmission mechanisms (Pacheco-Vega 2001, 2002, 2005a, 2005b)  Forced convergence – goal of NA-PRTR project PRTR in Mexico (Registro de Emisiones y Transferencia de Contaminantes, RETC) – slowly moving towards compliance Implementation has been steadily lagging behind Canada and US  Some evidence of policy learning (Harrison, Pacheco-Vega and Winfield 2003)  Accountability through PRTRs? Some mixed evidence (Pacheco-Vega 2007a, b)  ENGO mobilization using knowledge (epistemic communities literature) Pacheco-Vega 2015
  6. Evaluating the Citizen Submission on Enforcement Matters Mechanism (CSEM) of

    the CEC Puzzled by the CSEM process (with Jonathan Fox, UCSC and Inger Weibust, Carleton University), funded by the Programa de Investigación y Estudios sobre la Región de América del Norte (PIERAN, El Colegio de México), Research Programmme on the North American Region Independent assessment of citizen claims.  Who uses the mechanism?  Why do they use it? Does this mechanism help bring ENGOs together and form coalitions? What type of policy responses come from each Party?
  7. Some insights (now SEM only – strange to remove “citizen”)

     Mexico has faced the most number of submissions  Steady decline in recent years in the US SEM as an accountability measure  Faute de mieux (for lack of something better) (Weibust 2006, Pacheco-Vega, Weibust and Fox 2010)  How effective has it been? Can we compare its success to other information-based measures (e.g. PRTRs?) (Pacheco-Vega 2006, Pacheco-Vega 2013c) Taking stock: What is new with SEM?  More recently, and more puzzling, steady decline against Canada (Pacheco-Vega 2013a, 2013b, forthcoming)
  8. Distribution of citizen submissions on enforcement matters (1995-2012) (N=81. Source:

    Pacheco-Vega 2015) Canada, 31, 38% U.S, 10, 12% Mexico, 40, 50% CSEM distribution per country (1996-2012) Total number of citizen submissions on enforcement matters (1996-2012) per country targeted (N=81. Source: Pacheco-Vega 2015)
  9. Transnational environmental NGOS in North America

  10. Project (s) • “The Comparative Politics of Garbage Governance” •

    Comparing informal waste picking practices across countries (book Project) • So far:, a few of the cities Montevideo (Uruguay), Tokyo (Japan), Vancouver (Canada), Washington DC (USA), Paris (France), Madrid (Spain), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Leon and Aguascalientes (Mexico), possibly Bogota (Colombia) and Sao Paulo (Brazil) • Collective project (edited volume) including Egypt, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Vietnam, Spain, Uruguay (possibly add Colombia) • “Exploring Exploring Models of Electronic Wastes Governance in the United States and Mexico: Recycling, Risk, and Environmental Justice” • With Kate O’Neill (University of California Berkeley) – Funding UC MEXUS CONACYT • Identifying the multi-level and multi-sectoral features of electronic waste governance in the US and Mexico, and • Identifying major obstacles to, and the forces that shape effective governance interventions.
  11. Informal waste pickers’ strategic choices • Perception of waste as

    a resource • in environmental engineering literature and • life cycle analysis • However, • it has been the informal sector that has reminded us in the social sciences realm that waste can actually be a resource (E. Sekerka & Stimel, 2014).
  12. Informal waste pickers’ strategic choices • Waste pickers characterized as:

    • have gained increased political power, thus being able to ascertain a high level of agency (Ahmed & Ali, 2006; Rouse, 2006), ◦or • as almost always self-interested individuals whose only focus is individual survival through low-skill, high-environmental-risk, low payoff labor (Ezeah, Fazakerley, & Roberts, 2013). • Neither is entirely accurate nor is the literature conclusive on whether informal waste recycling improves or deteriorates scavengers’ livelihoods.
  13. Why cross-national approaches? • Cross-national comparison approach to explore: •

    whether the political climate in each country may have had an impact in how informal waste pickers self-organize, • whether politics has played a role in shifting technologies and locational practices and if there has been any visible impact (positive or negative) on their welfare 03/07/2015 ICPP 2015 13
  14. 03/07/2015 ICPP 2015 14 Leon Montevideo Madrid Vancouver Organizational dynamics

    Disorganized Well-organized Disorganized Organized Picking practices (location/site) Household Container Container Dumpster or container Technology choices Bike with frontal cube Trash/bin bag Trash/bin bag Trash/bin bag Relationships with local government Confrontational Cooperative Confrontational Collaborative Type of waste Mostly cardboard, plastic bottles Cans, cardboard, miscellaneous Cardboard Cans, cardboard Definition of informal waste picker Pepenador Cartonero Cartonero Dumpster diver Source: Pacheco-Vega (2015) International Conference on Public Policy, Milan, Italy
  15. Informal waste pickers’ strategic choices

  16. Project Informal waste pickers Transnational ENGO coalitions Rationale • Bringing

    informal waste pickers into the discussion broadens the conversation because it shifts our view • from focusing on technological choice (how to properly dispose of waste) to • examining policy/societal choice (how to involve all members of society in how waste streams are managed). • Understanding ENGO strategies through two main pathways: • Transnational advocacy networks as influencers (Keck and Sikkink’s boomerang, Pacheco/Vega’s first/second order mechanisms) • Transnational ENGO coalition building as a pressure strategy (naming and shaming) (Murdie & Urpelainen 2015) Interviewees and participants • Marginalized, disadvantaged • Undertaking survival economy • Challenging government officials? Difficult • Elites (major ENGO heads participate in NACEC meetings) • Facing government officials? Piece of cake  Ethnographic strategy • Embeddedness • Embeddedness Ethical concerns • Further marginalization, stigmatization • Reification of a weaker position • Weakening of elite position • Regulatory capture (?)
  17. The peculiarities of fieldwork in two very different environments 

    Positionality  To what extent is the researcher really removed?  Vulnerability and subject protection  Are we reifying and sustaining stigmatization?  Ethics of data management  (recording, storing, reproducibility issues)
  18. In conclusion: Beyond ethnography o Ethnography as ONE research method

    of a broad suite  But… see critiques of mixed-methods in graduate studies o Is it the method or the person?  Ethnographic performance is, largely, the work of the ethnographer o Which issues remain unaddressed?  Implicit biases and explicit biases, positionality, power dynamics
  19. Acknowledgements and thanks Thank you to  The UNESCO Chair

    and Institute of Comparative Human Rights  El Instituto: Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies  Department of History  Department of Political Science  Special thanks: Dr. Mark Healey (History)
  20. Thank you! Any questions, comments? My contact details: [email protected] Twitter:

    http://www.twitter.com/RaulPacheco Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DrPachecoVega Website: http://www.raulpacheco.org Publications: http://cide.academia.edu/RaulPachecoVega