For the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, Adam Baczko and Gilles Dorronsoro argue for the necessity of resuming fieldwork. They trace how subcontracting research or shifting to methodologies which are remote in time and space—solutions often touted in the pandemic age—in fact produce unreliable, exploitative, and undertheorized work incapable of accurately analyzing dynamic conditions on the ground. These transformations relate to broader research trends toward neoliberal privatization, and the authors outline how they can be resisted by returning, carefully, to the field.
Gilles Dorronsoro is professor of political science at Pantheon-Sorbonne University, principal investigator of the ERC-funded research program “Social Dynamics of Civil Wars” and senior fellow at the Institut Universitaire de France. Throughout his career, he has researched civil wars using a sociological approach and ethnographic methods in Afghanistan, Turkey, and Syria, and has started research on the state in Mali. Dorronsoro is the author of Revolution Unending: Afghanistan, 1979 to the Present (Columbia University Press, 2005) and of Le gouvernement transnational en Afghanistan. Une si prévisible défaite (Karthala, 2020). With Olivier Grojean, he coedited Identity, Conflict and Politics in Turkey, Iran and Pakistan (Hurst, 2014) and coauthored with Adam Baczko and Arthur Quesnay, Civil War in Syria: Mobilization and Competing Social Orders (Cambridge University Press, 2017). Previously, he coordinated a research program to rethink the sectarian conflicts via the concept of identity capital (2006–2009) and also was a Resident Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (2009–2012). His research has been featured in numerous media outlet, among which the New York Times, Bloomberg, The Guardian, and France 24.