For the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, Ilmari Käihkö reflects on the effects of distance. Mirroring the author’s experience of research impacted by the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, Covid-19 too has forced a reckoning with the emergence of “new normalities” and the physical and social distancing imposed by viruses. Käihkö not only considers the work of ethnography from a distance, but also weighs the effects—and affects—of researching and writing in isolation.
Ilmari Käihkö is an assistant professor at the Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership at the Swedish Defence University, and a veteran of the Finnish Defence Forces. His research focuses on creation, control and use of force, and the conflict ethnography used to study these topics. He is currently finishing a monograph on the Ukrainian volunteer battalions that fought especially in the early stages of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war, and another with Jan Willem Honig on the Swedish-Finnish strategy in Afghanistan. His research is published in Armed Forces & Society, Civil Wars, Conflict, Security & Development, Defence Studies, Ethnography, among other outlets. Prior to his current position, Käihkö was supported by the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders' Fellowship Fund (SYLFF) as a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Sociology at the Uppsala University and as a visiting scholar at the Department of Anthropology at the Yale University. He defended his PhD dissertation that focused on cohesion in Liberian armed groups at Uppsala University in 2016. Follow him on Twitter @kaihko.