Ethnographic Research in the Time of Coronavirus
Mar26

Ethnographic Research in the Time of Coronavirus

In Italy we have a proverb, ‘anno bisesto, anno funesto’ which can be translated as something like ‘leap year, fatal year’. I wouldn’t define myself as superstitious and I generally don’t pay too much attention to these kind of sayings. However, 2020 so far has been an adverse, if not disastrous, year. The outbreak of COVID-19, also known as novel coronavirus, has been at the centre of attention worldwide and has been affecting the lives of people all over the world in many different ways. This new, unknown, virus originated in the province of Wuhan in China and very rapidly spread around the world. It seems to be highly contagious, it dangerously affects elderly people and those with underlying health conditions, and hospitals are overall struggling with the capacity of infected people who need respiratory assistance. The WHO (World Health Organisation) has declared it a pandemic, and there is an ongoing state of emergency in several countries in Europe and overseas. Italy has been hit very hard by the virus, being the second country in the list of most confirmed cases and deaths after China. I live and study in Scotland, but I am from Sardinia, an island and region of Italy, which is not just my homeland but also the centre of my PhD research. As an ethnographer, I am familiar with the uncertainty that fieldwork brings about and I thought I was quite prepared (I might even say excited) to face the unforeseen and unexpected. Maybe even crash, less excitedly, into some ‘dead ends’. I can certainly state that I wasn’t prepared at all for a global pandemic that would force people to stay at home and practice social distancing and self-isolation. No, this wasn’t included in my contingency plan. My first personal encounter with the novel coronavirus was a few weeks ago, the day before I was meant to fly to Cagliari (my hometown) and finally begin my ‘proper’ fieldwork which, for the sake of frankness, is also an excuse for me to visit my family and friends. I am in my second year of my PhD path and, as in conventional academic manner, I had planned to undertake my data collection and fieldwork throughout the year. Specifically, between March and May. My research focuses on the socio-cultural aspects of folk and religious festivals. In particular, I am analysing the performance of gender and identity in the Festival of Sant’Efisio in Sardinia, a series of rituals and celebrations including a largely attended four-day procession and a folk parade at the start of May. A social distancing festival, how would that even work? I planned my visit...

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Lost in Malmö. Or: The Ever-changing Imaginations of a City
Jan30

Lost in Malmö. Or: The Ever-changing Imaginations of a City

There are different things you notice about a city. They depend on your starting point or your destination, on the purpose of you being there, and of course on yourself – your experiences and prehistory with and of the city itself and other places, your anticipations and imaginations.[1] Sometimes, we just like to dream of other places and try to imagine what it would be like to live or at least go there. The first time I ever went to Malmö was in 2015. I was visiting Sweden as a tourist and I was just amazed by how quiet this city was, how less traffic there seemed to be compared to what I’m used to. Malmö gave me the impression of a cosy, little city. Over the time, this perspective, the feeling of walking through the city, changed. Imagining cities Fantasy and imagination are important parts of every modern society and they have an even more significant effect in the present social life, because of the process of deterritorialization of persons and ideas. Mass media, for example, made it easier for people not only to look at different possible lifestyles, but also to imagine living somewhere else. Fantasy and imagination are social practice, they are an inspirational force for the social lives of people.[2] We make up our own imaginations of different places, and of course those imaginations are not static, they change overtime and through experiences. With each visit to Malmö, I started recognizing the size of the city: not as big as a metropolis like the nearby Copenhagen, but also not a small town. It felt like a middle-sized city. When I started to explore the whole city – by train, bus, and foot – I suddenly felt lost and not cosy at all. I did not feel the same way about Malmö as I did before. View over Malmö I always travel to Malmö via airplane to Copenhagen for certain reasons, one of them being the Öresund bridge; driving over the bridge from Copenhagen to Malmö is always a nice experience. During my last flight to Copenhagen, the wind and weather of that day forced the plane to fly over the coast of Malmö. The sky above the east sea was clear, so I was able to see what was going on at the ground. It took me a while to realize that the city I was looking at was Malmö – one can always identify the Turning Torso. As I was watching the city from above, it reminded me of Orvar Löfgren’s description of different perceptions of landscapes depending on the mode of transportation: from...

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Sisyphus and the American Dream
Jan02

Sisyphus and the American Dream

The Cyber-utopia is dead – long live the Cyber-heterotopia! The digital era didn’t deliver on its promises of emancipating humanity and the optimistic visions attributed to online technology turned predominantly into capitalistic and totalitarian nightmares. Here is why we should have a breather before we start to smash our devices and bury them somewhere far, far away.

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Finding tales to tell
Feb22
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Are you sure?
Oct17

Are you sure?

Hong Kong, China (January 28th, 2014)

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Dreams beyond the border
Dec27

Dreams beyond the border

Athens, Greece (November 2014)

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