The paper discusses a series of methodological challenges emerging in an ongoing comparative research project. It specifically focuses on how a multi-sited ethnographic project committed with comparison across social groups and field sites can, in practice, do justice to and emphasize the uniqueness of each of its cases. While comparison is intrinsic to ethnographic work, most ethnographies become comparative post hoc (Miller et al. 2017); that is, developing comparisons after fieldwork. Contrastingly, our project seeks to build a comparative study as we conduct fieldwork in multiple locations, considering different social groups. In this paper, we reflect on how an investigation on home-making holds a potential for producing comparative ethnographic work on migratory processes.
HOMInG is a research study exploring the nexus between home and migration through a framework that highlights comparative ethnography across case studies with different social groups of reference and country-settings. We are covering five European countries (Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Sweden), focusing on urban neighbourhoods and engaging with a range of people with specific migrant backgrounds. Three researchers are currently reaching out to economic and forced transnational migrants from Latin America, South Asia and the Horn of Africa, clustered according to their country of origin: Ecuadorians and Peruvians, Indians and Pakistanis, Eritreans and Somalis.
In focusing on various ‘ways of homing’ among migrants, we address the tension between the specificities of ethnicity, human mobility and the experience of home, and the generalities across our cases and field sites. We argue that comparing among sites or specific cases is not something inherent in the topics we are researching or the materials we are collecting, but rather a possibility that comes from juxtaposing our specific cases as the project unfolds.