Covid-19 and research in conflict-affected contexts: distanced methods and the digitalisation of suffering

David Mwambari, Andrea Purdekova, Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

Abstract

This research note explores the pressing ethical challenges associated with increased online platforming of sensitive research on conflict-affected settings since the onset of Covid-19. We argue that moving research online and the ‘digitalisation of suffering’ risks reducing complexity of social phenomena and omission of important aspects of lived experiences of violence or peace-building. Immersion, ‘contexting’ and trust-building are fundamental to research in repressive and/or conflict-affected settings and these are vitally eclipsed in online exchanges and platforms. ‘Distanced research’ thus bears very real epistemological limitations. Neither proximity not distance are in themselves liberating vectors. Nonetheless, we consider the opportunities that distancing offers in terms of its decolonial potential, principally in giving local researcher affiliates’ agency in the research process and building more equitable collaborations. This research note therefore aims to propose a series of questions and launch a debate amongst interested scholars, practitioners and other researchers working in qualitative research methods in the social sciences.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Research
Early online date8 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Apr 2021

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