Methodological Approaches

  • Tony Capstick


Ethnography and textual analysis are combined in the approach I take here in exploring in more depth the interrelationship between language and social life. Firstly, it is important to emphasise that I take an ethnographic perspective in my work, following Papen (2005), as this study is not a full ethnography of literacy but rather an exploration of the role of literacies in migration. An ethnographic perspective emphasises the multiple realities of those being researched and the plurality of meanings that people ascribe to actions (Hymes 1980). Erickson explains this plurality of meanings as ‘the slippery phenomena of everyday interaction and its connections, through the medium of subjective meaning, with the wider social world’ (1990: 80). This subjective meaning is captured by focusing on the emic, i.e. insider, perspective, in situated studies. In order to achieve this, ethnographers’ goal is reflexivity, achieved by examining the researcher’s role in interpreting the social context of the research participants as they go about their everyday activities while actively taking part in those activities in the ‘field’. I use the term ‘field’ here to describe the social settings in which I carried out participant observation and interviews with the research participants in this study, and in this chapter I describe in detail these settings, observations and interviews. Often I did not fully participate in the activities with the research participants but rather was present observing at the back of the room, which I see as non-participant participant observation. As such, my understanding relies on ethnographic accounts of specific events as well as sociological analysis of wider social, economic and institutional contexts. Researching migration from Pakistan to the UK at the micro level required a historical perspective, which began prior to the Partition of India in 1947 and is ongoing, in order to understand the chain of migration which influences contemporary literacy practices for Mirpuris in Britain.


Research Participant Participant Observation Visa Application Discourse Topic Literacy Practice 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tony Capstick
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ReadingReadingUK

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