Digitally shaped ethnographic relationships during a global pandemic and beyond


School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development

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Social distancing and public safety measures enacted in response to COVID-19 created a surge in methodological “advice” for researchers facing disruption to fieldwork. Resources and publications frequently encouraged changes vis-a-vis digitally enhanced methods or employment of digital ethnography. For ethnographers, the establishment and maintenance of ethnographic relationships in pandemic contexts restricted to virtual interactions has not been thoroughly explored, leaving those trained in recruitment, rapport-building, and field engagement with fewer resources to navigate this integral topic. Here, we provide insights into how ethnographic relationships may be developed when there is limited access to the field and traditional relationship building is not possible. We argue that as ethnographic methods change and adapt, so too must perspectives on ethnographic relationship development. By closely examining ethnographic relationships confined to digital spaces in the context of the Tennessee tornado recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this project sheds light on how to overcome this challenge.

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Qualitative Research

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