'Being there' during lockdown: a phenomenological perspective on ethnography of the pandemic present and research methods for the future

L. L. Wynn, Susanna Trnka

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

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The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted anthropologists to revisit the discipline’s core methodological framework: the assumption that ethnographic research requires us to ‘be there’ in the field, doing participant observation usually in physical proximity to our research participants and collaborators. During lockdowns and under conditions of public health emergencies around the world, it may not be possible or ethical for us to physically ‘be there’ in close proximity. Instead, what we are seeing during the pandemic is a complex interdigitation of digital and offline worlds, as people use the Internet to connect with far-flung friends and relatives and incorporate media coverage of global phenomena into their own embodied experiences of COVID-19. In this chapter, we use our own experiences during lockdown in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand to explore what ‘being there’ might mean, ranging from digital connections to the use of ‘walking ethnography’ during lockdown to investigate how people expressed connection, isolation and citizenship while confined to their homes and neighbourhoods. Drawing on phenomenological perspectives, we explore how researchers’ own horizons of experience can offer insights into the kinds of research questions and methods that are well suited for exploring research participants’ experiences and perceptions while in lockdown. Beyond the pandemic, these methods are important tools for ethnographers to investigate contemporary experiences of isolation, connection and curatorship of online identities in a profoundly digital world.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA research agenda for COVID-19 and society
EditorsSteve Matthewman
Place of PublicationCheltenham, UK ; Northampton, USA
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781800885141
ISBN (Print)9781800885134
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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Copyright the Publisher 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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