In my first blog post at the start of the summer, I wrote about my aim to draft a chapter of my dissertation based on fieldwork conducted during the pandemic. As I started to outline this writing, I also noticed that several methodological questions were coming up for me again, particularly with regard to the ways in which the pandemic had shaped – and continues to shape – my fieldwork. In my second blog post, I raised some of these methodological questions about how, as graduate students, we are often trained to think of fieldwork in a linear manner. This, however, is a practice that has been made almost impossible by the disruptions, both professional and personal, that have come about as a result of the pandemic. In this final post, I want to spend a little time sharing some other methodological questions that have come up for me about doing fieldwork during this pandemic and writing it up.
One thing specifically that has come up is the ways in which fieldwork and the work of care are intertwined, sometimes very explicitly, and sometimes less so. As I think about the ways in which the ‘field’ in fieldwork is not a given – and that the researcher is always shaping and defining what they think is of interest as a part of this field – it is also clear that doing fieldwork during a pandemic shifts the boundaries of what counts as fieldwork. In my experiences the question of what counts as a part of the researcher’s field of interest is also a question of the ways temporality intersects with spatiality, particularly when defining what counts as the field vs. what does not.
Doing ethnographic work that has consisted of ‘following the field’ and seeing what it leads to has felt very different than I thought it would during the pandemic, particularly with regard to questions of how this following looks when there is no specifically physical field. These larger methodological questions, even as they have no clear or easy answers, have been as interesting to think about as the data in the chapter I am writing itself, and I hope to be able to continue conversations about method here and elsewhere.