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Navigating Data “Silence(r)s”: Researching Migration in the Caribbean

February 27 @ 10:00 am - 11:00 am

MiFOOD Webinar No. 15

Attributed in part to an absence of systematic data collection infrastructures, and to the region’s very geography, it has been an enduring empirical struggle to engage in comprehensive analyses of migratory movements across the Caribbean region. In this paper, we adopt a comparative case study approach to reflect on challenges encountered while collecting data on Venezuelan migration in the Southern Caribbean. These included limited access to potential interviewees and other research participants for projects undertaken in Aruba, Curaçao and Trinidad and Tobago. With hardened borders, Venezuelan migrants have increasingly engaged in irregular movement via boat journeys to Caribbean islands. To further complicate this matter, these migration flows are occurring in highly politicized environments, as small island developing states seek to respond to these in-flows. Thus, compounded by the clandestine nature of these migrant journeys, and Caribbean governments reticence to publicly comment on the issue to ‘outsiders’, researchers are faced with multiple data silences and silencers during data collection. Acknowledging that these silences are fraught and powerful, we are, however, able to harness and reappropriate them, through for example, reading these silences within the larger socio-political contexts, and allowing these silences to direct us to supplementary data sources. We therefore interrogate the concept of silence in qualitative research, which has typically been applied to the interview process. We argue that data silencers can be used as productive methodological instruments toward understanding unfolding migration phenomenon. While our scholarship is grounded in Migration Studies, our research will appeal to demographers, anthropologists, and sociologists. In addition, our case study is applicable to the wider discourse on data collection on sensitive topics, and specific issues, such as interviewing, gatekeeping and insider status.


  • Natalie Dietrich Jones, University of the West Indies
  • Shiva S. Mohan, Toronto Metropolitan University

Natalie Dietrich Jones is Research Fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at the University of the West Indies Mona campus. Her interests include geographies of the border, governance of migration, and intra-regional migration in the Caribbean. Natalie is Chair of the Migration and Development Cluster, an interdisciplinary group of researchers exploring contemporary issues concerning migration in the Caribbean and its diaspora. Natalie holds an MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in Development Policy and Management from the University of Manchester. She is currently undertaking a multi-sited project on the response to Venezuelan migration in small island developing states in the Southern Caribbean. She is also Principal Investigator for the Jamaica (Kingston) component of South-South Migration and Migrant Food Insecurity: Interactions, Impacts and Remedies (MiFood Project), a multi-city research initiative which is led by the Wilfrid Laurier University.

Shiva S. Mohan is a human geographer with research interests situated at the interface of migration and mobility studies, island studies and political geography. His work seeks to underscore the ambivalences, contradictions and precarities within migrants’ lived experiences, in addition to those faced by territories vis à vis transnational migrations. Shiva is currently a Research Fellow at the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Migration and Integration program at Toronto Metropolitan University, where he leads two research projects: as part of a Horizon Europe consortium, the “Measuring irregular migration and related policies in the Canadian context” project (MIrreM Canada), and a Soli*City project investigating intergovernmentalism and “firewalls.” Shiva is a member of the Migration and Development Research Cluster at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), The University of the West Indies. He is also an associated researcher and trustee with Swiss-based research NGO, Environmental Mobility Research Unit (EMRU).

MiFOOD is hosting a series of webinars on various topics about migration and food security that highlight the progress of the project. These webinars include conceptual discussion, empirical findings and policy analysis. Through these webinars, we intend to build a community with various stakeholders for knowledge sharing, deepen the understanding of the complex intersections between migration and food security, and facilitate the discussion of effective policy interventions. Follow the MiFOOD Twitter (Moving on Empty), Like the MiFOOD Facebook page to be notified about upcoming webinars.

Black and white maze

Photo credit: Freepik


February 27
10:00 am - 11:00 am
Event Category:


Balsillie School of International Affairs, 67 Erb Street West
Waterloo, ON Canada
View Venue Website

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