Writing for the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, Monica DeHart reflects on how the mobility restrictions of the pandemic has thrown into question basic assumptions about how we do what we do and how we know what we know—particularly poignant questions for ethnographers used to studying social phenomena through their embodied experience and sustained engagement with their objects of study. She explores analytical and methodological strategies for thinking ethnographically despite the current contingencies of research (im)mobility.
Monica DeHart is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Puget Sound, where she is also affiliated with the Latin American Studies and the Global Development Studies programs. Her work focuses broadly on the cultural politics of economic development in Central America, where she has been conducting ethnographic research for over 20 years. Her current book, Transpacific Developments: The Politics of China and Chineseness in Central America (Cornell University Press, forthcoming), builds on ethnographic research in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala to analyze the different forms and meanings China has taken in the region’s development politics. Her previous book, Ethnic Entrepreneurs (Stanford University Press, 2010) explored the ambivalent intersection of neoliberal politics and translocal ethno-development initiatives. Her recent work has been published in Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, Journal of Chinese Overseas, Third World Quarterly, Third World Quarterly, and Journal of Latin American Geography, among others.