9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS09 Research Methods in Ethnic and Migration Studies

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Transnationalism and History Building I, 2E5

Following globalization. A grounded approach to pendular migration of Portuguese construction workers in Spain

With this paper, we try to explore some methodological issues raised by an ongoing research on the transformations of work and work-related mobility in Northwest Portugal.

The research focus on the case of Portuguese "pendular" migrants working in construction and construction-related activities in Spain. Although in Northwest Portugal emigration has always been the strategy of a relevant number of families facing unemployment and low income, never like in the last few years had this weekly or fortnightly commuting of Portuguese workers to Spain been so intense, in result of declining economic growth rates and growing unemployment (we mustn´t forget that the region´s main industrial activities - textiles, clothing, footwear, furniture - are facing intense international competition).

Setting out from this general context - and after confronting ourselves with the results of other researches we were conducting in Northwest Portugal, all pointing out the growing social relevance of this "pendular" migration - , we decided to study these migrants´ everyday experience, through a multi-sited and diachronic, though always "contemporary", ethnography. By doing research both in the migrants´ communities of origin and in their worksites in Spain (we lived for a week with a group of construction workers in O Carballiño, Galicia), we were in better position to analytically reconstruct the set of social relations underlying this apparently rational "choice" to migrate and to better understand how migration is experienced in everyday life, and what kind of real personal and social consequences it implies.

But this grounded approach we propose is not only about getting to know the Portuguese migrants´ everyday life. In fact, what we wanted to do was to construct a perspective on globalization "from below", using ethnography to set out from the real spatial and temporal experience of Portuguese migrants in Spain in order to explore its global context.