Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Journal of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research 2020, Vol. 14, 216–231


Published by Used by permission.


Operationalizing space is challenging because the factors impacting education are often located at different scales. Combining Geographic Information Systems and ethnographic analyses allows researchers to conduct studies at both micro- and macro-scales, thus illuminating the connections between local and global phenomena. In our first case, we analyze refugee migration at multiple scales in order to better understand and contextualize refugee mobility. In case two we measure ‘literacy landscapes’ at the state- and district-level by mapping clusters of high/low standardized reading scores. Hot spot and cold spot analyses show that standardized reading scores are implicitly connected to socioeconomic status and are often masked at larger scales. Accounting for space not only as a metaphorical concept but also as an empirical one with geo-referenced data can only strengthen ethnographic research and be strengthened by it. Scalar analyses reveal patterns that need further examination, thus improving the tactical uses of theory and method.