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Ethnography in the Time of COVID-19: Vectors and the Vulnerable



We examine the choices, dilemmas, and opportunities confronting ethnography at a moment in which face-to-face interaction is deemed dangerous and prohibited by many university human subjects committees. As scholars who have examined vulnerable seniors through intense engagement, we recognize that our presence can spread disease, just as we might become infected by those very informants. Yet, ethnography serves a necessary role in charting the conditions of the vulnerable and identifying points of intervention. The COVID-19 virus and its effects on research might truncate the granular observations that have made ethnography such a profoundly incisive method in the short term, but it may also permits reflection and methodological innovation that can contribute to both theory and policy. In this vein, our unwanted hiatus provides an opportunity to work on longstanding concerns such as ethnographic transparency while simultaneously advancing innovative new styles of research. Whether we seize this opportunity remains uncertain.
Ethnography in the Time of COVID-19: Vectors and the Vulnerable
Gary Alan Fine and Corey M. Abramson
Invited for Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa Special Issue (July 2020)
We examine the choices, dilemmas, and opportunities confronting ethnography at a moment in
which face-to-face interaction is deemed dangerous and prohibited by many university human
subjects committees. As scholars who have examined vulnerable seniors through intense
engagement, we recognize that our presence can spread disease, just as we might become
infected by those very informants. Yet, ethnography serves a necessary role in charting the
conditions of the vulnerable and identifying points of intervention. The COVID-19 virus and its
effects on research might truncate the granular observations that have made ethnography such a
profoundly incisive method in the short term, but it may also permits reflection and
methodological innovation that can contribute to both theory and policy. In this vein, our
unwanted hiatus provides an opportunity to work on longstanding concerns such as ethnographic
transparency while simultaneously advancing innovative new styles of research. Whether we
seize this opportunity remains uncertain.
If there is one profound truth about ethnography, it is that intimacy, and not distancing, is crucial.
Given this, what are the implications as we readjust our research at a moment defined by the
wide-reaching effects of the novel coronavirus COVID-19?
While the pandemic with its hotspots, shutdowns, and selective victims has yet to fully play out,
some immediate effects are apparent. The current pandemic and its likely aftermath create
profound ethical and practical challenges for the practice of ethnography. What will the “new
normal” of fieldwork look like? In the absence of a vaccine, physical distancing has been one of
the most effective tools in limiting the spread of the pandemic. Yet, one outcome is a de facto
moratorium on in-person field observation long the iconic method of ethnography. While this
is understandable and necessary in the short term, the result is that on the ground observations
are absent when they are most needed both to understand the lifeworlds of the affected and
produce evidence-based policy responses. As a result, ethnographers find ourselves gazing from
the sidelines, unable to use our method to make crucial contributions. These realities raise a
question of existential significance for ethnographic methods: what does the shifting biosocial
landscape portend for the future of ethnography, today and in the world that follows the initial
waves of COVID-19?
One possible answer follows from the Sufi proverb, “this too shall pass.” This may be true.
While historical ruptures can lead to profound societal transformations (Sewell 1996), critical
moments of intense structural and cultural change are rare. Often, even seemingly revolutionary
happenings, ultimately result in retrenchment of a status quo defined by durable inequalities
(Tilly 1999). Perhaps as this essay is published, the crisis will have lifted and current discussions
will fade into the realm of historical sociology, little more than a footnote in science studies. But
perhaps not. Change seems thrust upon us. What is certain is that we are living in unsettled times
with broad implications for local life in the present and, given the topic of this essay, for those
who study it through intensive field work.
The Ethnography of the Vulnerable
As two ethnographers who have observed the worlds of older Americans, we know that even in
healthier moments, ethnographers can be a vector of danger for the vulnerable. We each took
care in interacting with subjects to prevent spreading infectious disease within the public and
private spaces in our studies. Even a bad cold or seasonal flu can easily harm or kill those with
weakened immune systems, particularly those in close contact in settings such as assisted living
facilities. The risk climbs quickly for a virus that is both highly contagious and poorly
understood. Further, as anthropology’s history of colonialism and sociology’s elitism remind us,
without care, the work we do as social scientists can harm the groups we aim to understand
(sometimes in ways we may not foresee). We must balance the merits and dangers of our
presence. Being in the field allows for the production of important insights that would be
impossible to gain using more distant methods. Yet, when studying the vulnerable during a
pandemic, the threat of our simple presence as potential asymptomatic carries of a silent killer is
salient, personal, and consequential. Ethnographers are often trained to accept risk to themselves
and see protecting their subjects as a potential life and death issue. But today, the possibility of
direct harm is possibly higher than at any point in the recent past. Depending on how events
unfold, being a potential disease vector may become a new “master status” (Hughes 1971).
At the same time, the absence of ethnographic observation creates dangers as well. In this, we
note but set aside the friendships and tokens of respect that field researchers provide their
vulnerable informants. Shelving the method that provides social science’s most powerful tool for
observing human behavior as it occurs limits our ability to address problems of practical and
scientific import. While epidemiological estimates track disease diffusion, and polls assess
attitudes, without field work the process by which people navigate their social worlds becomes
conjecture. In the absence of ethnography, anecdotes, determinism (e.g. rational choice theories
or totalizing cultural accounts), and strategic media frames (Gitlin 2003) supplant data-driven
accounts of in situ behavior in both quantitative research and public discourse to the detriment of
our understandings. This process may happen even when ethnography is not subject to
quarantine, but the absence of ethnographic data removes a key resource for those who would
imbue their work with evidence at a time in which this information is vital. While we respect the
expertise of epidemiologists in suggesting how people should self-isolate, this helps us little if
we do not understand how people respond to the recommendations and policies that mandate
The Vulnerabilities of Ethnography
At this moment, we confront limitations on research as universities place moratoriums on face-
to-face social science research. This leaves those currently “in the field with limited options and
imperfect alternatives for direct observation such as telephonic or online interviews, video data
of public spaces, zoom-like platforms, and other technologically mediated modes of interaction.
A return of in-place ethnography must deal with both the possibility of being a vector of disease
and the psychological effects of seeing others in similar ways. Further, it is possible that the
parallels between demands for contact tracing and increased surveillance may make some
communities less amenable to accepting outsiders. In addition, this new reality may shape the
decisions of human subject committees (labeled Institutional Review Boards or IRBs in the
United States) whose mandate is to be cautious in protecting both research subjects and the
interests of the institutions in which they are embedded (Bosk and DeVries 2004; Stark 2011).
At present, many projects have been delayed or halted. Human subject committees are becoming
more guarded with research observing vulnerable informants, both because of the threat of
liability and uncertainty about the actual risk. This affects all social science research, but
ethnography is unique with its focus on immersion and prolonged contact. We may need to
consider alternative methods in the short term, but must also defend the unique strengths of field
observation and avoid false equivalences that would treat ethnography as interchangeable with
other qualitative methods. We do not denigrate other methods such as in-depth interviews or
analyses of digital media, or advance anachronistic blanket statements about ethnography’s
superiority. Rather, we argue that the various styles of qualitative research are distinct each has
its own strengths and weaknesses, a desirable toolkit in an era of methodological pluralism
(Lamont and Swidler 2014).
These issues are not only salient for those studying communities, but also for understanding
organizations. Ethnographers have benefited from the willingness of organizations to provide
access. But what happens when these organizations are weary or are overwhelmed? We must
confront the reality that we can be seen as, and may be, a burden: a novel virus. Evolving
circumstances may require that we formalize our understandings with organizations and
individuals to secure access and satisfy concerns about harm and disruption. Further, the
structure of interaction may change as physical distance and remote work becomes normalized.
How to study the lives of those who are physically and socially isolated has long been a
challenge, as the presence of a researcher changes the very phenomenon that is being studied.
The Challenges of Precarity
Our involuntary hiatus, while necessary, places disproportionate stress on younger academics.
The next generation of ethnographers were already pressured to spend less time in the field, to
focus on more efficient methods, and to be prepared for a rough job market that often privileges
articles over the scholarly monograph (once the coin of the realm in ethnography). At the same
time, the expected volume of publications necessary for hiring has been rising, creating another
push towards methodological approaches that have a faster turnaround The precarity of pursuing
ethnography in the contemporary academy seems to be growing especially for graduate
students and those outside the sheltered walls of sociology’s most-elite institutions. Ethnography
has become a high-risk/high-reward endeavor that is now becoming less accessible to many
especially in light of the pressures of COVID-19. As universities, such as our own, are pushing
to have graduate students complete their degrees more quickly, extended stays in field sites place
students and their projects at risk. The expected delay in collecting data will abort many
ethnographies. COVID-19 and its future viral siblings may deter those who would pursue
ambitious field studies.
Given these challenges, well-intentioned colleagues are circulating crowdsourced documents that
purport to offer solutions for “avoiding in-person interactions by using mediated forms that will
achieve similar ends" (Lupton 2020) The reality is that part of what makes in person fieldwork
uniquely useful for many questions is the real-time observation of people in the environments in
which they spend much of their lives (Cicourel 2020). Certainly digital ethnographies can be
tremendously insightful as Tom Boellstorff’s (2008) Coming of Age in Second Life
demonstrated. Although we do not have many canonical digital ethnographies, they may become
more influential as norms of sociability and opportunities for observation shift. However, to say
the physical and digital are interchangeable or produce similar analyses is a methodologically
indefensible false equivalence.
In thinking of ethnography at this moment of crisis, we must reflect on the limitations and the
strictures of sociology as a discipline and of ethnography as a fragmented method. Our
gatekeeping journals privilege novel theory and intellectual challenge. Too often, we face a push
for concise “tweetable” punchlines and public dust-ups, which hamper the growth of
ethnographic pluralism, and the deep insights and flexibility of long-form monographs. The
quick has replaced the slow in ways that indicate the shifting conventions of a field of cultural
production rather than evidence of linear progress. The findings from the range of traditions
under the ethnographic umbrella are packaged in accordance with the conventions of short form
social science and the need to fit ethnography, and ethnographers, in neat boxes that strip the
field of its diversity (Abramson and Gong, 2020).
Reflection and Growth
While physical distancing is simultaneously necessary and intellectually costly, we must
remember why ethnographic research has been central to sociological inquiry over the past
century. Many who employ this method contend, persuasively we believe, that by close
observation, we can understand the processes of social life in ways that methods that are more
distant cannot (Gans 1999). This is especially the case for populations like impoverished seniors
that might otherwise be invisible to academics. This unique characteristic has been crucial for
developing and extending theory, generating concepts, and illuminating empirical patterns in a
host of ethnographic traditions including symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology,
interpretivism, local sociology, grounded theory, the extended case method, and analytical
sociology (for a review see Atkinson et al. 2001). In addition, avoiding a detailed account of the
practices that individuals and groups use to construct meaning limits the policy prescriptions,
enhancing the life chances of those groups with which we engage. Observing the struggles of
seniors to gain adequate housing in an inflexible economy, as we both have seen, allows us to
understand the complexity of the rental market and governmental attempts at providing shelter
for those at risk.
However, our concern extends beyond the challenges that vulnerable seniors face (cf. Abramson
2015, Hocschild 1973; Freidenberg 2000; Gubrium 1975; Myerhoff 1980). The granular details
and compelling examples that field researchers have penned advance our discipline in myriad
ways in fields ranging from urbanism to small group interaction (Fine 2003). In all cases, we
require a “street-level” view of complex lives and challenging circumstances. While we admit
the limits of our method, we must never discard the benefits of participant observation and its
tried-and-true strategies for direct observation.
The current crisis demands a moment of reflection. Let us revisit the virtues and limits of
traditional fieldwork in its connection to complementary data sources that observe from afar.
Better integrating interviews, video data on public spaces, online observations, triangulation with
surveys, archival, and geospatial data, and engagement with a growing array of computational
methods may open new avenues of inquiry. Likewise, examining how “big data and deep data
complement each other, both in data collection and analysis, is an arena that seems ripe for
investigation (Bernstein and Dohan, 2020 ). As we are physically (or socially) distanced, perhaps
it is also a time to expand approaches that include subjects as distributed researchers or
collaborators: a more inclusive form of participant observation. This could lead to a new wave of
ethnographic crowdsourcing, a contemporary version of the pre-WWII Mass Observation project
in Great Britain (Hubble 2006). The evolution of technology may permit new forms of data
presentation and ethnographic replications (Abramson and Dohan 2015). It is too early to suggest
where such alternate and hybrid methodologies might lead, but creativity often emerges on dark
Ethnographers must continue to explore long-standing issues related to transparency,
representation, and replication (Sánchez-Jankowski 2002). For decades, ethnography has needed
alternatives to asking for blind trust or treating research claims skeptically. COVID-19 demands
that we turn our awareness to this risk as we justify our approach. In truth, we have avoided
meaningful replications of both theoretical developments and empirical projects: at times,
conflating cursory revisits and ex post facto interviews with replication (e.g. Boelen 1992).
Combined with our failures to develop protocols for sharing deidentified data, these issues have
left us vulnerable to critics both within and outside our field (Goldthorpe 2000; Lubet 2017). As
many of us find ourselves out of the field for the first time in years or decades, perhaps we can
generate alternatives as COVID-19 raises issues of the demands for and the limits of
COVID-19: Revisiting a Changed World
Scholars such as Michael Burawoy (2003) have pushed ethnographers to revisit the sites of their
own and others’ observations. The aftermath of COVID-19 may provide fruitful opportunities
for a reassessment of prior projects, returning to the scene of the theory. The ethnographic site is
always in process, creating challenges for replication. Revisiting the same physical space does
not mean we are visiting the same social space. Neighborhoods change and become gentrified or
hollowed out, hospitals change protocols, organizations wither and die, and seniors age out of the
scene. Whether ethnographic replication exists and whether this is a possible basis for theory
remains a point of contention. Still, the importance of context in field research is a strength and
the recognition of the effects of historical events can allow for powerful comparisons.
The fact that research sites are always changing as participants come and go is a reality that is
especially apparent in dealing with aging populations. During the first author’s observation of a
senior political organization over thirty months, many of the core members left the scene and
were replaced by other recruits. Some of these newcomers left before the research was
completed. Others died during the project. By the end, the first author had become a long-
standing member of the group. The second author examined how older adults’ lives were shaped
by the convergence of American inequality and everyday challenges related to health, illness,
and death. Historical events, like the great recession, provided a window into seeing the
differential impact of shifting policies on those in impoverished versus affluent neighborhoods
(Abramson 2015). Revisiting sites after the ravages of COVID-19 could allow for tracking
changes in arenas that are slower to change in the absence of stress. While a workplace,
neighborhood, or senior community may be newly organized after the Covid-19 crisis, this
change provides analytic leverage for understanding how this pandemic generates group culture
and interaction orders (Fine 2021).
Post-Viral Ethnography
The rupture of ethnographic observation during the COVID-19 pandemic is both painful and
essential. Like the disease itself, its effect disproportionately harms the most vulnerable. Yet,
even in the shadow of this viral cloud and its vast devastation, especially for senior populations,
there may be hidden opportunities. Unsettled times can inspire new visions. Perhaps we might
pause from our discursive approximation of a “combat sport” and collaborate on shared
challenges. But perhaps not. Can our professional structures become more flexible or will we
accept the bars of our current iron cage?
Our inability to provide aid and comfort through ethnographic research of vulnerable populations
today is immensely frustrating for those who use participant observation as an entry into
wisdom. We realize the dangers of our presence. The world’s contours have changed, although
for how long and how much remains to be seen. The same is true for the ethnographers that chart
them. Yet, we know we hope at some point, we will return to the field. The question is
whether we will be wiser and bring tools better to listen, observe, and protect those we study. Or,
will we only reproduce our world pre-Covid? Must the new normal be the old normal?
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Gary Alan Fine is James E. Johnson Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University; he is the
author of Talking Art: The Culture of Practice and the Practice of Culture in MFA Education
(University of Chicago Press, 2018). His current ethnography is a study of senior citizen political
Corey M. Abramson is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Arizona, author
of The End Game: How Inequality Shapes Our Final Years (Harvard University Press, 2017) and
co-editor of Beyond the Case: The Logics and Practices of Comparative Ethnography (Oxford
University Press, 2020).
... Qualitative contributions are especially relevant for checking common behavioral assumptions in epidemiological models (Palinkas 2014), foreseeing unexpected outcomes of health and safety restrictions (Bascuñan-Wiley, DeSoucey, and Fine 2022;Siu 2016), uncovering the needs of vulnerable populations and medical and task forces (Chafe 2017;Godbold et al. 2021;Huang et al. 2021), and helping engage communities and stakeholders in building public health and social interventions (Abramowitz et al. 2015). The nuances that depth descriptions, local knowledge, and interpretative analyses provide on people's experiences and meanings allow decision-makers and health authorities to design and implement action plans tailored to specific population groups, especially those affected disproportionately by the pandemic and its economic, social, and health consequences (Averett 2021;Fine and Abramson 2020;Power 2020). ...
... Direct contact with individuals and families is infeasible mainly because of government and safety restrictions (Fine and Abramson 2020;Howlett 2022). Prolonged lockdowns and limitations in the movement of people make it impossible to reach families and their members in their "natural" social contexts. ...
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... In this vein, patchwork ethnography also builds on feminist and decolonial concepts pertaining to ethnography (Abu-Lughod 1990; Stacey 1988) and strives towards inclusivity (Günel et al. 2020). Additionally, the possibilities of when, if and should researchers return to physical, long-term fieldwork have also been questioned, both within the manifesto and elsewhere (Chambers 2020;Fine and Abramson 2020;Günel et al. 2020;Johnson 2022;Podjed 2021;Scerri et al. 2020). Despite COVID-19 amplifying the need to approach fieldwork differently, it has been claimed that patchwork ethnography, conducting 'research at a distance' and moving away from what is classified as 'traditional' has been used and questioned by researchers long before the pandemic began (Blum 2020: para. ...
... Lack of access, world changes due to COVID-19 and personal issues made the prospect of conducting ethnographic fieldwork in-person and long-term virtually impossible, as is increasingly becoming the experience of many anthropologists (Blum 2020;Fine and Abramson 2020;Góralska 2020;Johnson 2022;Podjed 2021;Serekoane et al. 2021;Watson et al. 2021;Watson and Lupton 2022). Through patchwork ethnography, we were able to take a peek behind the patchwork curtain, exploring death and the body in Adelaide. ...
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Patchwork ethnography is a viable methodological and theoretical approach. Fieldwork can be accessible, achievable and accommodating of both personal and professional circumstances and responsibilities of the researcher, and external factors such as living within a COVID-19 world. In this article, we explain patchwork ethnography and showcase how the methodology was implemented during the first author's PhD fieldwork conducted in 2020–2021 relating to peeking behind the physical and metaphorical curtains of the death industry to understand the handling, management and conceptualisation of the dead human body in Adelaide, South Australia. We demonstrate how field sites were constructed and discuss the methodological tools utilised to produce an ethnographic experience. We also question the ongoing viability of notions of ‘traditional’ fieldwork practices.
... The COVID-19 pandemic -in addition to unsettling the world along with health and societal systems -confounded the best laid research plans. New ethical paradigms, institutional policies and life pressures arose, challenging and often scuppering the work of scholars, ethnographers in particular (Fine and Abramson, 2020;Góralska, 2020;Lobe et al., 2020;Newman et al., 2021). At the same time, contemporary ethnographers have for many years been wrestling with the conceptualisation of 'impact' in their work, particularly under evolving funding frameworks. ...
... This is no less true in the context of a pandemic. While mindful of the need to safeguard both people and research itself, some commentators have challenged assertions that innovative forms born of the COVID-19 pandemic can be considered interchangeable with or equivalent to field-based participant observation (Fine and Abramson, 2020). In reimagining the ethnographic approach through MIME, we have attempted to retain the ethnographic principles of 'understanding informants' life-worlds and their situated practices and lived local realities' (Varis, 2015: 56). ...
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The understanding of what ethnography looks like, and its purpose, is continuously evolving. COVID-19 posed a significant challenge to ethnographers, particularly those working in health-related research. Researchers have developed alternative forms of ethnography to overcome some of these challenges; we developed the Mobile Instant Messaging Ethnography (MIME) adaptation to ethnography in 2021 to overcome restrictions to our own research with hospital doctors. However, for ethnographic innovations to make a substantial contribution to methodology, they should not simply be borne of necessity, but of a dedicated drive to expand paradigms of research, to empower participant groups and to produce change – in local systems, in participant-collaborators and in researchers and the research process itself. In this paper, we reflect on our experiences using MIME, involving collaborative remote observation and reflection with 28 hospital doctors in Ireland from June to December 2021. After reviewing literature on ethnography in COVID-19 and general epistemological developments in ethnography, we detail the MIME approach and illustrate how MIME presents an evolution of the ethnographic approach, not only practically but in terms of its reflexive shift, its connected and co-creative foundations, and its ability to drive change in research approaches, participant life-worlds and real-world improvement.
In this reflection, I contextualize my own experiences conducting educational ethnography in a synchronous online kindergarten classroom during the COVID‐19 pandemic. I highlight how conducting research in online classrooms transforms ethnographic research methodologies and concepts such as the field site. I offer four suggestions, derived from my experiences and guided by an un‐sited approach to this hybrid online field site, to conceptualize a more fluid approach for studying online schooling in general.
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Background. *e COVID-19 pandemic and government-led interventions to tackle it have had life-changing e2ects on vulnerable populations, especially rural and urban slum dwellers in developing countries. *is ethnographic study explored how the Ghanaian government’s management of COVID-19, socio-cultural factors, infrastructural challenges, and poverty in6uenced community perceptions, attitudes, and observance of COVID-19 prevention measures in Ghana. Methods. *e study employed focused ethnography using in-depth interviews (IDIs), focus group discussions (FGDs), and nonparticipant observations to collect data from an urban slum and a rural community as well as from government o:cials, from October 2020 to January 2021. *e data were triangulated and analyzed thematically with the support of qualitative software NVivo 12. All ethical procedures were followed. Results. *e Ghanaian government’s strategy of communicating COVID-19-related information to the public, health-related factors such as health facilities failing to follow standard procedures in testing and tracing persons who came into contact with COVID-19-positive cases, poverty, and lack of social amenities contributed to the poor observance of COVID-19 preventive measures. In addition, the government’s relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, community and family values, beliefs, and misconceptions contributed to the poor observance of COVID-19 preventive measures. Nevertheless, some aspects of the government’s intervention measures and support to communities with COVID-19 prevention items, support from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and high knowledge of COVID-19 and its devastating e2ects contributed to positive attitudes and observance of COVID-19 preventive measures. Conclusion. *ere is a need for the government to use the existing community structures to engage vulnerable communities so that their concerns are factored into interventions to ensure that appropriate interventions are designed to suit the context. Moreover, the government needs to invest in social amenities in deprived communities. Finally, the government has to be consistent with the information it shares with the public to enhance trust relations.
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The reception of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in camps has become a common phenomenon in Europe, discursively linked to the historical ‘crisis’ of mass movements towards the region. Camps and irregularity are two key issues in understanding the special impact that the COVID‐19 pandemic has had on migrants and refugees. This article explores connections between the ‘campization’ of migrant and refugee reception and the current debates for and against migrant regularization in response to the COVID‐19 pandemic in Southern Europe (Spain and Italy). The analysis uses qualitative methodology based on multi‐site ethnographic fieldwork (pre‐COVID‐19 pandemic); informal remote interviews with migrants and refugees; and analysis of political, media and legislative discourses.
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El objetivo principal del artículo fue analizar el uso de tecnologías de comunicación digital en las prácticas de solidaridad desarrolladas entre migrantes venezolanos en la ciudad de Quito, Ecuador. La metodología aplicada se basó en entrevistas a profundidad y análisis de contenidos en grupos de WhatsApp. El trabajo de campo fue realizado entre junio de 2020 y marzo de 2021. Para el muestreo se empleó una estrategia no probabilística (snowball sampling). La naturaleza cualitativa del estudio no permite generalizaciones estadísticas. No obstante, los resultados obtenidos caracterizan las prácticas de solidaridad digital en grupos con lazos sociales fuertes (familias) y débiles. Las conclusiones indican que, en las familias transnacionales la solidaridad digital se basa en sentidos de co-presencia que facilitan el cumplimiento de obligaciones morales, la generación de economías de cuidado y el soporte emocional; mientras que, en grupos sin conexiones previas la solidaridad se construye mediante comunidades digitales en espacios masivos e impersonales.
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Studia empiryczne w obszarze socjologii sportu cechuje ponadprzeciętna trudność realizacji in situ, objawiająca się chociażby ograniczonym dostępem do materiału badawczego i ograniczoną możliwością jego porównań. Jak zauważył w swym klasycznym już opracowaniu Klaus Heinemann (1989), problemy te wynikają (a) ze zróżnicowania modeli nowożytnego sportu i form jego społecznego zakorzenienia oraz (b) ze specyfiki organizacji sportowych – obecnie polifunkcyjnych, działających nieraz w skrajnie odmiennych środowiskach społecznych. Celem artykułu jest prezentacja wybranych problemów metodologicznych zaistniałych w toku etnograficznego oglądu amatorskich klubów piłkarskich działających na obszarach wiejskich w Polsce. Autor podejmuje również próbę odniesienia doświadczeń wyniesionych z realizacji tego przedsięwzięcia do sytuacji postpandemicznej. Artykuł może być tym samym potraktowany jako głos w dyskusji nad użytecznością instrumentarium jakościowego w studiach nad współczesnym sportem.
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Achieving high rates of COVID-19 vaccination has become central to a return to normalcy in a post-pandemic world. Accordingly, exceptional measures, such as the regulation of immunity through vaccine passports and restrictions that distinguished between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, became a feature of vaccination campaigns in certain G7 countries. Such policies stand in tension with recent supranational European Union policies that seek to build inclusion and trust through engaging minoritised groups in vaccine campaigns. To explore this tension, we present novel ethnographic data produced with migrant and Roma communities in Italy. Our evidence suggests that under restrictive measures, many within these groups initially described as ‘vaccine hesitant’ have accepted a vaccine. Yet, rather than indicating successful civic engagement, we find that vaccine acceptance was tied to deepening mistrust in science and the state. Considering the structural socioeconomic, historical and cultural elements informing people’s vaccination choices, we propose a shift in emphasis towards equitable principles of engagement.
The literature on digitalization and accessibility changes to public transport in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is limited. This paper reports on the urban public transport measures against COVID-19 launched by a Spanish transportation operator, TMB (Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona), to ensure safe journeys where digitalization of services have been intensified. This study responds to the current trend whereby transport operators are quickly digitalizing their transportation services as a response to COVID-19. The outcome of the research is to apply contemporary academic theory to assist transportation managers in designing and enhancing transportation services for this group during the COVID-19 pandemic. While transport operators have improved their services to better address the needs of PwD, these changes are far from universal in approach. At the end of 2020, as part of an academic–industry collaboration with a Spanish transportation operator, 12 PwD, six transport staff members, and two representatives of two disability advocacy associations took part in an inclusive urban transportation research project in the city of Barcelona using the service-dominant (SD) logic co-creation process with PwD through a comparative approach. Specifically, we assessed the value outcome perceived by PwD in their Metro experience when resources resulting from the co-creation process were digital (Study 1) and when they were a combination of digital and non-digital (Study 2). To examine the PwD experience, a qualitative methodology was employed that incorporated online focus groups, ethnographic techniques and post-experience surveys with participants. Study 2 indicted better outcomes and explained how ensuring the appropriate combination of digital and non-digital resource allocation for PwD can improve the public transport experience. Our findings can be used by public transport policymakers for enhancing accessibility to improve public transport experiences during and after the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing digital and non-digital resources.
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cloth • $39.95 ISBN 9780674743953 256 pages • 5 tables The End Game How Inequality Shapes Our Final Years Corey M. Abramson " Abramson brings a qualitative eye to a topic we have mainly known through statistics—mortality rates, actuarial estimates, and life expectancies. With a refreshing perspective, The End Game brings us close to what people experience as they age, making clear not only that 'aches and pains' are shared across the board but also that access to resources matters enormously for how people manage those difficulties. The book dispels stereotypes over and over; his elderly respondents work to maintain their image, laugh at their failing memories, and smoke marijuana. The book is a terrific contribution to our knowledge of how people actually experience inequality in their later years. "
The medical profession has invested untold treasure in quantifying bodily processes, and excellence in the quantified biological sciences has long been the surest route to professional fame. Yet the profession also recognizes that success in the healing arts requires a grasp and appreciation of narrative and culture. Culture shapes biomedicine in at least three ways, all of which may be interrogated through ethnography. First, biomedicine has imbued the provider–patient relationship with special cultural status, and ethnography can provide insights into the nature of this relationship (which has been variously interpreted as a necessary component of a functional society, a hallmark of occupational power, or an aspect of boundary work by a knowledge profession). Second, biomedicine recognizes that health is shaped by culturally mediated behaviors that typically occur outside the clinical setting and are thus beyond providers’ immediate apprehension and control. Ethnography can provide insights into these behaviors. Finally, the scale of contemporary biomedicine (healthcare spending accounts for one-sixth of gross domestic product) has produced complex cultural institutions. Ethnographic insights are needed to characterize the organizational culture of medicine and improve the practice of healing.
This introductory chapter examines the methodological and practical challenges that comparative ethnographers face. It begins by discussing both the promises and potential pitfalls of comparative field research. It then moves to an examination of how ethnography’s unusually diverse set of traditions provides both unique challenges and possibilities for comparative social science. The chapter proceeds to chart the various ways in which ethnography’s historically diverse traditions translate into divergent approaches to comparison in contemporary research. This is followed by an overview of the structure of the volume, which explains how each of our contributors’ chapters advances comparative ethnographic methodology. The chapter concludes with a discussion of why acknowledging, maintaining, and utilizing ethnographic pluralism, rather than pushing for a single catch-all approach, can benefit both individual scholars and the field of ethnographic methodology more broadly.
In this chapter, eminent ethnographer and cognitive sociologist Aaron Cicourel shares insights gleaned from using ethnographic methods for the past six decades. In conversation with Corey Abramson, Cicourel addresses a number of important issues about both the practice of comparative ethnography and the academic contexts in which it takes place. Cicourel argues for attentiveness to an often-overlooked strength of comparative ethnography—the way cross-site ethnographic comparisons can be used to chart not just variation, but comparatively invariant aspects of human behavior in a way that captures real-time, localized behavior and language use. Cicourel explains how his approach consequently draws upon diverse traditions ranging from cognitive linguistics to behavioral ecology to produce a more integrated form of comparative sociology that encompasses multiple levels of social and physical reality. In the process, Cicourel proceeds to voice his current position on topics including approaches to comparison, ecological validity and levels of analysis, language use, the historical connection of his approach to ethnomethodology, team science in contemporary academia, analogical and digital approaches to inquiry, the role of theory, and what he hopes future ethnographers will learn from his career.
This paper explores the ethnographic technique of the focused revisit-rare in sociology but common in anthropology-when an ethnographer returns to the site of a previous study. Discrepancies between earlier and later accounts can be attributed to differences in: (1) the relation of observer to participant, (2) theory brought to the field by the ethnographer, (3) internal processes within the field site itself, or (4) forces external to the field site. Focused revisits tend to settle on one or another of these four explanations, giving rise to four types of focused revisits. Using examples, the limits of each type of focused revisit are explored with a view to developing a reflexive ethnography that combines all four approaches. The principles of the focused revisit are then extended to rolling, punctuated, heuristic, archeological, and valedictory revisits. In centering attention on ethnography-as-revisit sociologists directly confront the dilemmas of participating in the world they study-a world that undergoes (real) historical change that can only be grasped using a (constructed) theoretical lens.