Data collection methods for this tangible and intangible subject research

Data Collection Stages

Data collection was divided into three overlapping phases.

Stages 1 and 2 – Video and Textual Sources

The first and second phases gathered data from video and textual sources, to generate important information on the commonly held views of Raqs sharqi history, its movement vocabulary, and how this changes across time, cultures, and between individuals.

During the first phase, videos of famous Raqs sharqi dancers were collected from online sources, to understand the key movements that comprise the dance, how these movements are individually embodied, experienced and how, as a tradition, these are transmitted through performance.

The collection of textual/video data in the second phase included practitioner-focused books, DVDs, online magazines, internet blogs, websites, online videos of interviews to famous dancers, open forums, and social networking sites.

3rd Stage: Semi-structured Interviews

The third phase of the research involved collecting data through semi-structured interviews with selected participants, to understand, on an individual level, how practicing Raqs sharqi has affected their lives and to explore how they experienced and interpreted the dance.

Most of the data gathered in the course of this research included a combination of offline and online materials.

Hence, this research included an internet ethnography or, as Kozinets (2009) calls it, a nethnography. According to Kozinets (2009, p. 56):

In many cases, netnography uses the information publicly available in online forums . . . netnography can provide the researcher with a window into naturally occurring behaviors, such as communal discussions, and then enhance that understanding with more intrusive options such as communal participation and member interviews.

Kozinets (2009)

The Internet and Transcultural Heritage

In this research, the online element was predominant because Raqs sharqi is practiced worldwide and its participant base is transcultural.

Practitioners make considerable use of the Internet to communicate ideas about their dance, especially via social media sites such as:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Forums
  • Video sharing sites
  • Blogs and websites

Moreover, the online and offline worlds often overlap because practitioners may meet in person at festivals, performances, and trips and then keep in touch online.

As Kozinets (2009, p. 14) states, ‘a majority of people who belong to online communities meet other online community members face-to-face’.

I used online methods in the research

Even the offline texts from this research, such as books and DVDs, are connected with the online world because the authors have become known worldwide through the Internet and they use this medium to promote their offline published material.

The online ethnography included observation of discussions taking place online, as well as analysis of online written and visual texts and videos because, for online ethnography, as for offline ethnography, as stated by Sparkes (1992b, p. 29), in addition to participant observation:

The researcher can also draw upon a wide range of methods to help understand the views of the participants. These include, various forms of interviewing . . . analysis of other written documents, the analysis and collection of non-written sources.

Sparkes (1992)

Why a Traditional Ethnography in Egypt was Not Used

The reasons for not conducting a traditional ethnography in Egypt were of a practical nature.

Firstly, the cost of traveling to and staying for a long time in Egypt was not affordable.

Secondly, the political situation in the last few years (following two revolutions in 2011 and 2013) in Egypt has made it less secure to travel to (indeed, some of my research participants mentioned that they did not go to Egypt because of this).

Therefore, I decided against traveling to Egypt for this research, being aware of the potential risks for ethnographers in certain situations (Wax, 1986; Sampson and Thomas, 2003; Macaulay, 2004; Stewart et al., 2009).

Before starting this research, I had been to Egypt twice for dance training (to Luxor and Cairo), hence I used this experience to guide and sensitize my research.

Out of necessity, my focus shifted from the local towards the global and transcultural dimension of Raqs sharqi, drawing on McDonald’s (2010) strategy for her Ph.D. on belly dance (she started her fieldwork in Egypt but could not stay for long, as originally planned, due to a set of contingencies).

I tried to keep Egyptian sources in my research, by analyzing dance videos featuring mainly Egyptian rather than non-Egyptian dancers, including interview participants who lived a long time in Egypt and searching online for texts and videos in which Egyptian practitioners were interviewed.

In the following four subsections of this chapter, I will describe the different research methods I used, explaining for each:

  • why I chose it
  • my sampling strategies
  • practical issues
  • general considerations and ethics.

Although the sampling strategies I adopted were different for each method, because of their different natures, I generally tried to sample strategically to ‘produce . . . a relevant range of contexts or phenomena, which will enable you to make . . . comparisons, and . . . build a well-funded argument’ (Mason, 2002, p. 123).


1 – This was the advice from the UK Government at the time of the research, as opposed to my own views regarding safety and security in Egypt.

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