7th Biennial ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference

Abdul Aziz

Abdul Aziz is a PhD candidate at School of Communication and affiliated with Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC) of Queensland University of Technology (QUT). His research interests span from understanding digital and social media to digital (in)equalities and non-media centric approach to digital cultures and practices in everyday life. In particular, his current research focuses on digital migration and diaspora studies in relation to transnational identity and integration.

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Researching diaspora in the digital age: new directions towards a transnational approach

One of the most significant challenges in researching contemporary diaspora is to adopt the methodological approach to complex social and digital media environments. Diasporic identity negotiation and integration processes take place in this complex environment, and they include ethnicities, race, social capital, host societies, ‘imagined community’, transnational and virtual connections and cultural production (Anderson, 2006; Appadurai, 1996) .

The recent methodological tendency in researching diaspora and digital media towards a quantitative approach contrast with theories of diaspora as a multi-faceted and dynamic cultural formation. On the other hand, qualitative, ethnographic work often considers the nation state as a container of social process. Therefore, in order to capture and understand the multi-faceted and dynamic identity formation of diaspora and their integration process, it is necessary to initiate and develop an appropriate methodology that is comparative and transnational in nature. Building on the transnational approach (see Amelina, Nergiz, Faist, & Schiller, 2012; Schiller, Basch, & Blanc-Szanton, 1992) , I sketch this methodological and epistemological disconnect and address it by arguing that qualitative approach needs to address methodological challenges and move beyond border and nation state to avoid the trap of ‘methodological nationalism’ (Wimmer & Schiller, 2002) . In doing so, first, this paper identifies methodological challenges of diaspora and migration studies, and second, it addresses the qualitative methods (such as multi-sited (Marcus, 1995) and the mobile methods approach) to understand socially and digitally mediated formations of diaspora as well as researchers' positionality. Finally, I present a case study that investigates transnational identity and integration of the Rohingya diaspora in Australia and Bangladesh, each distinctive but interconnected locations within the power structures.

Drawing on a case study of Rohingya diaspora, this paper draws on two concurrently expanding strategies that can be part of an integrated framework that reveals multiple complementary perspectives; (a) the incorporation of qualitative and mobile or visual methods in what has been largely related to social media data, and (b) the use of multi sited research that investigates deep contextual analysis of multi-faceted dynamics of Rohingya diaspora (such as transnational mobility, diversity, integration, participation, and exclusion) individuals and family members connected across borders.