Contributing to the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” essay series, Oscar Abedi, Maria Eriksson Baaz, David Mwambari, Swati Parashar, Anju Oseema Maria Toppo, and James Vincent outline various paths toward reducing field research’s potential for exploitation, especially that of Global South collaborators. The pandemic has highlighted inequalities and immobility that differently affect facilitating researchers and contracting researchers. In response, the authors identify key issues that institutions, publishers, and individual researchers must reflect on in order to counteract these imbalances—and take advantage of an opportunity to fundamentally transform field research into collaborative knowledge production.
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.
This theme of our “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” essay series has been curated by Tatiana Carayannis, program director of the SSRC’s Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum (CPPF) and Understanding Violent Conflict program.
Writing for our “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, Shobana Shankar reflects on how the pandemic has thrown into question basic assumptions that emotions impede knowledge-creation and dissemination. She explores instead how we might consider how emotions and their manipulation are part of social norms, including norms of scholarly work; and how the disclosure of emotions that affect our perception and presentation of research, along with privilege and positionality, is the new ethical turn in a landscape of research insecurity.
Disturbing the Aesthetics of Power: Why Covid-19 Is Not an “Event” for Fieldwork-based Social Scientistsby Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka
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?
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.