THE RETURN OF THE ARMCHAIR:
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE A COMMITTED
FIELDWORKER BUT MUST STAY AT HOME?
by DR. VERONIKA SIMONOVA,
EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY AT ST. PETERSBURG
Date & Time
29. 04. 2021, 13:00 CET
During the workshop, we shall discuss effective ways of gathering empirical data within the context of distant research work. Today social anthropologists and scholars from related disciplines find themselves in need of rethinking classical approaches to fieldwork. This state of affairs is basically triggered by the current Pandemic situation. A new labor condition stimulates us to reflect the conceptual framework of the ‘distance’ in ethnographic research. What is ‘distance’? How should we exercise it? How can we now keep the key principles of anthropological fieldwork we learned in
formal education and practiced in our research pathways? We shall discuss ‘distance’ as the category of social sciences and reconsider its multi-layered structure. A new way of perceiving the distance in social anthropology is mainly represented by methods such as ‘patchwork ethnography’, ‘cyber-ethnography’, and ‘remote sensing’. Nevertheless, ‘distance’ as a concept has never been challenged in these approaches. At the same time, a Victorian notion of ‘Armchair Anthropology’ is directly related to distant research, but viewed as an alien and even hostile circumstance for good
anthropological research since Malinowski times: ‘Anthropology is not an Armchair, it is the study of people and with people’ – Tim Ingold. Armchair Anthropology and its contemporary avatar, as well as its advantages and disadvantages, must be
rethought. I shall also introduce a new technique for distant ethnography entitled ‘Armchair-in-Field’ which I examined in Taimyr Peninsula. The main target this
method was applied for is to evaluate and document the scale of changes of local indigenous landscapes after the fuel spill into a local river.