Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka, writing for our “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, queries why Covid-19 has not become an “event” for Western social researchers: an accident that radically reverses the normal order of things. Instead, he demonstrates that the Black bodies of research assistants continue to carry the weight of a colonial system of knowledge production, rendering them vulnerable to dangerous conditions. How, Bisoka asks, might a decolonizing response change research practice—and how have African artistic productions helped to map this terrain?
Debates about research in conflict zones foreshadowed the constraints that Covid-19 now imposes on all fieldwork. This theme, part of the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, brings together a diverse group of scholars from across the social sciences to examine how the pandemic has changed research practice and how researchers and institutions can navigate the insecurity and ethical concerns raised by remote research and transregional collaborations in the age of Covid.
Shobana Shankar (Stony Brook University)
Jamie Monson (Michigan State University)
Duncan Green (London School of Economics)
In their contribution to the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, Elisabeth Jean Wood, Douglas Rogers, K. Sivaramakrishnan, and Rene Almeling explain that for the foreseeable future, research in many field sites will face complex ethical and logistical challenges, and argue that immersive ethnographic field research will likely be among the last areas of academic research to resume something resembling its prepandemic rhythms. They reflect on the necessary conditions for the resumption of US-based or international field research and propose a series of principles that academic institutions can follow in order to avoid promulgating unresponsive, blanket policies.
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.
In her contribution to the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” essay series, An Ansoms reflects on how universities and scientific institutions can support researchers working in crisis contexts. Unpicking the toll that such contexts can take on researchers, Ansoms lays out an institutional strategy for providing support through training, coaching, and care. By undertaking a deliberate strategy for developing resilience, institutions can ensure that researchers are able to cope with the emotional challenges posed by carrying out research in times and places of crisis.
Research in Insecure Times and Places: Ethics of Social Research for Emerging Ecologies of Insecurityby Tatiana Carayannis and Annalisa Bolin
As part of the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” essay series, this theme on “Social Research and Insecurity” brings together scholars from across the social sciences to examine our longstanding research practices and develop new ones in response to the insecurity that Covid-19 has created. In this introductory essay, Tatiana Carayannis and Annalisa Bolin outline the new valences of research in the pandemic era, from security challenges for both researchers and researched to new methodologies for gathering data remotely and the need to reflect on the changing roles of institutions. Throughout this theme, researchers with experience working in contexts of insecurity provide a roadmap for both the pitfalls of and possible solutions for navigating research in the age of the coronavirus.