As with other nation-states, the United States population comprises people living both within as well as outside its geographical borders. Studying United States nationals living abroad presents interesting methodological challenges: on the one hand, there is paucity of demographic data, and, on the other, there is a heavy reliance on virtual communications. Conventional ethnography, based on face-to-face interaction with informants selected at geographically defined sites, proved to be insufficient to understand this population. This paper will explore the methodological challenges of studying transnational populations who communicate through virtual and physical means. Based on a study of United States nationals in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the paper describes the stages of creating a study population and reports on strategies for studying it ethnographically. The result was a virtual ethnography that both provided a background and helped contextualize conventional ethnography. The use of virtual ethnography as a preliminary exploration of the study population contributed to a reflection on the epistemological, methodological, and ethical issues of conventional and virtual ethnography.

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