Anthropologists reside, work and conduct field work all around the world, and mobility is at the very core of our endeavour. As such, we are the largest global community of social researchers, and we have the largest global, social and cultural reach of any of the social sciences.
However, with the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 and consequent mobility restrictions – for us as well as for most communities across the globe – our physical presence has been drastically limited both at home, and with respect to the ‘field’ where we do our fieldwork.
This call for action is inspired by our strength as a global network and community, and by our capacity to situate the local in the global and vice versa. Thus, we may be best positioned to understand how local communities and residents are responding to state and national policies of public health and how this are made visible in public spaces. As such, even though our presence in the field may be limited during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can still use our global resources and connections to make sense of the various intervention measures countries and communities are taking and individual and community responses across the globe to this unprecedented global crisis. This present action we aim to initiate can be – both now and in the future – a very useful resource for understanding commonalities and differences in community responses to the virus spread and eventually, to its hoped-for decline.
We invite all anthropologists, as well as other social researchers with ethnographic interest, to contribute to a visual ethnographic map of COVID-19 pandemic via a specific mapping project created in Google Maps, entitled Visual Ethnography of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each contributor is invited to upload to the project map current photos, accompanied by a date and short description.
Guidelines for uploading photographs:
- The location should be where you live at the moment.
- The location can also include photos from your fieldwork sites taken by your contacts, colleagues and/or study participants in the field.
- The photos can be taken from inside your home, during a trip for buying essential groceries, during a safe walk or at your work (for those unable to work at home).
- For all photographs, safety should be prioritised – both for yourself and for the participants or collaborators in your studies.
- These photos should be taken while respecting all required or desirable health requirements (social distancing; protective equipment if necessary; one-walk a day where allowed etc.).
- Photos should protect the confidentiality of people who may appear in the photos. For example, all faces should be blurred; any other unique personal identifiers should be cropped out.
- If you would like to contribute, please email Cristina Douglas, firstname.lastname@example.org, with your email address and institutional affiliation so we can share the project with you. This will give you permission to add a location, photos and description.
- The content should reflect community responses to COVID-19 policy guidelines and the impact of the pandemic in your location or country (e.g., announcements placed in supermarkets windows; empty shelves; disposed PPE, face masks or surgical gloves etc.);
- Photographs should not include people unless their back is turned to the camera and they cannot be identified, or they face/unique identifiers are blurred/cropped out.
- Photographs should be accompanied by a short description;
- All photographs should be dated in the description of the photo;
- Make sure that your photos do not stereotype a location or any individuals or groups. If you have any concerns about this you may ask for an opinion on a photo before you post it.
Maintaining confidentiality and security of sites
- Project access is restricted to anthropologists/social researchers at any point in their careers.
- Permission to access the project will be granted by the project administrator Cristina Douglas (University of Aberdeen, UK) and reviewed by a project oversight committee.
- Interested entrants must provide their institutional identification and status (undergraduate student, graduate student, post doc, MA, PhD, other).
Additional guidelines for maintaining confidentiality
Protecting Human Subjects confidentiality
- This project aims to reflect visually how policies of health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic are implemented in public spaces and what we can learn from documenting them over time and across space. Thus, the focus is not on individual people. As such, the project will not accept photographs of the behaviour of individuals or groups of people during the pandemic;
- Please do not mention your name when you post photos if you prefer not to reveal your own identity or location;
- Locate the photograph in a larger geographic zone (e.g. city rather than neighbourhood) to avoid identifying a specific street or neighbourhood, if you don’t want to mention the specific location;
- “Do no harm” by making sure that your photos do not shame, stigmatise, embarrass or stereotype individuals or communities who do not respect rules or choose unofficial ways of dealing with the pandemic;
- Site administrators reserve the right to delete photos that may contain potentially harmful information.
Notes on ownership of photographs
- The site managers will not take ownership/copyright of any photos (unless they are their own photos);
- Contributors of photographs will own their photos. To protect ownership, they will name and date their photographs.
- Contributors who do not wish to be identified with the photos, may leave off their names. In this case the photographs will become common property of the site and can be used and cited by all without reference to their original owner. Be aware that photos will be downloadable and can be used by anyone with permission to enter the site. If your name is not on your photograph, we cannot guarantee that it will be properly cited.
Notes on research use
We aim to create this map as a resource for future research. However, the managers of the project request to be asked for permission to use this resource, to make sure that ethical principles that guide us as social researchers are respected.
Cristina Douglas, University of Aberdeen