This article draws on our experiences of carrying out PhD research on migration during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all involved with the University College London Migration Research Unit (MRU), and our PhD research explores the lived experiences of migrants and people affected by migration. This is the first of two articles in this issue of Migration and Society addressing the implications of COVID-19 on migration research from the perspective of postgraduate researchers. In this article, we firstly reflect on how “crises,” including the COVID-19 pandemic, inevitably shape contexts of migration research. We then share how COVID-19 has shaped our relationship to “the field” and our formal research institutions. Finally, we share how we have adapted our methodologies in response to COVID-19 and, considering the complex ethical and practical challenges posed by this context, reflect on what it means to make methodological “adaptations” in times of overlapping crises.
Migration Research During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Aydan Greatrick, Jumana Al-Waeli, Hannah Sender, Susanna Corona Maioli, Jin L. Li, and Ellen Goodwin
Religious Rituals’ Reflection of Current Social Conditions in the Middle East
Peoples’ practising of religious ritual is never isolated from the social and political setting in which it takes place. It is therefore inevitable that ritual practice somehow contends with the current social context. Examining Muslim ritual practices across the Middle East, the authors of the articles in this special issue discuss religious ritual as a tool for accomplishing something in the real world. They provide examples of which social concerns are addressed in ritual practice, who is involved and how the ritual practice is affected. The studies show that current ritual practices are embedded in multi-actor social spaces, and they also reflect on the ritual as a multi-actor space where the power to define ritual form, meaning and importance shifts between different categories of actors.
The Case of Egypt
Nadeem Ahmed Moonakal and Matthew Ryan Sparks
Throughout the Islamic world, the era of COVID-19 has witnessed controversial changes to highly ritualised traditional Islamic funeral rites. To combat the pandemic in Egypt, the government and Al-Azhar implemented restrictions surrounding group prayer and burial which many Egyptians viewed as impinging on their religious duties as well as on their ability to mourn. Utilising participant observation, interviews, and deductive research, this article explores the social and anthropological ramifications involved in the modification of traditional Islamic burial rituals in the era of COVID-19 and the negotiations involved amongst different actors, looking specifically at cases in Egypt.
Ethics of Dis/Engagement in Migration Research
Ioanna Manoussaki-Adamopoulou, Natalie Sedacca, Rachel Benchekroun, Andrew Knight, and Andrea Cortés Saavedra
This article offers a collective “gaze from within” the process of migration research, on the effects the pandemic has had on our interlocutors, our research fields, and our positionalities as researchers. Drawing from our experiences of researching a field in increasing crisis, and following the methodological reflections of the article written by our colleagues in this issue, we discuss a number of dilemmas and repositionings stemming from—and extending beyond—the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Focusing on issues of positionality, ethics of (dis)engaging from the research field, and the underlying extractivist nature of Global North academia, we propose our own vision of more egalitarian and engaged research ethics and qualitative methodologies in the post-pandemic world.
English Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic represents a new significant test for the role of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in regional health governance in Southeast Asia. Assessing ASEAN’s role during the pandemic through the concepts of “actorness” and “effectiveness,” the article argues that while ASEAN displayed all the attributes of actorness during the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to its effectiveness, the capacity of the regional institution to reach the objectives it committed to has been rather limited. Explaining the reasons for such “effectiveness–expectation gap” and, considering the last policy development in the region related to regional health coordination, the article identifies several conditions for ASEAN to strengthen its capacity to act effectively on regional health cooperation, and to contribute to the strengthening of a regional health response to a possible future epidemic threat.
Spanish Abstract: El COVID-19 representa una nueva e importante prueba para el papel de la ASEAN en la gobernanza sanitaria regional. Al evaluar su papel durante la pandemia a través de los conceptos de “actuación” y “eficacia”, el artículo sostiene que, si bien la ASEAN mostró todos los atributos de actoría durante la pandemia, en lo que respecta a su eficacia, su capacidad para alcanzar los objetivos a los que se comprometió ha sido limitada. Explicando las razones de esa “brecha entre eficacia y expectativas” y considerando el último desarrollo de políticas de coordinación sanitaria regional, el artículo identificó varios prerrequisitos como ineludibles en su búsqueda por reforzar la eficacia para garantizar la cooperación sanitaria regional en el Sudeste Asiático y mejorar la respuesta regional ante una próxima amenaza sanitaria.
French Abstract: La pandémie de COVID-19 représente un test significatif pour apprécier le rôle de l’Association des nations de l’Asie du Sud-Est (ASEAN) au sein de la gouvernance sanitaire régionale en Asie du Sud-Est. En évaluant le rôle de l’ASEAN pendant cette pandémie à travers les concepts d’actorness (capacité à agir) et d’effectiveness (efficacité), cet article montre que si l’ASEAN a exprimé sa capacité à agir pendant cette crise sanitaire, son efficacité, i.e son aptitude à atteindre les objectifs qu’elle s’est fixés, a été plutôt limitée. Les raisons d’un tel écart entre efficacité et attentes (effectiveness-expectations gap) sont expliquées dans l’article qui identifie plusieurs conditions pour que l’ASEAN contribue efficacement au renforcement d’une réponse sanitaire régionale indispensable face à une éventuelle prochaine menace épidémique.
Implications for the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond
Harlan Koff and Carmen Maganda
As has become our tradition, we begin this new issue by wishing our readers a happy new year in 2022. This editors’ note introduces volume 12 of Regions & Cohesion, our second as an open access journal. Already we view 2022 as a promising new year. The COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, but we are showing signs of adaptation at different levels. The arrival of the Omicron variant has resulted in fewer fatalities than previous variants. New vaccines and alternative treatments are being developed, and despite numerous logistical, political, and ideological challenges, the percentage of the vaccinated global population is increasing (Shet et al., 2022). These developments, combined with promising research on neonatal immunity and children’s immune tolerance indicate that we are heading in the direction of increased resilience.
A multisystem crisis in search of a comprehensive response
Aleida Azamar Alonso and Carmen Maganda Ramírez
In most of the world, we follow a production model based on economic premises from the middle of the nineteenth century, including processes of accumulation, monopolization, and privatization of a territory's common goods and of life itself, in order to guarantee the reproduction of capital. International regulations and laws that protect nature are mostly limited to reaction and repair of environmental damages caused by anthropocentric activities in the most vulnerable and impoverished nations in the world but do not often question the damage to populations, especially indigenous peoples and their ancestral territories. Latin America exemplifies this, given that the region has experienced a series of political, economic, environmental, and now health crises as it has become the epicenter of the current COVID-19 pandemic (Pan American Health Organization, PAHO, 2021).
Harlan Koff and Carmen Maganda
The American continents have become one of the epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic. Statistically, it is the world region which has been impacted the most by the pandemic. By August 3, 2021, over two million people have been confirmed to have died from COVID-19, which represents roughly half of the total number of confirmed global deaths from the disease (Statista, 2021). Moreover, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates that the economies of this region will contract by 5.3% in 2021, which will plunge almost 30 million inhabitants of this world region into poverty (ECLAC, 2021).
Longing for the Physical ‘Spaces Between’
Alyssa Grossman and Selena Kimball
This article, co-written by a visual anthropologist (Alyssa Grossman), and a visual artist (Selena Kimball), takes the form of a collaborative and self-reflexive conversation. In it we explore how particular types of screen-mediated interactions during the COVID-19 lockdown are reconfiguring our own experiences of environmental and spatial intimacy, both within our academic research and studio practice and in broader processes of emotional, intellectual, and creative exchange. Looking through the cross-disciplinary lenses of our own longstanding friendship and collaborative working relationship, we discuss how these changed bodily perceptions of shared environments and the human interactions within them are giving rise to personal longings for the ‘spaces between’ ourselves and our surroundings, extending beyond the edges of the screen.
Surprisingly, although the Israeli government adopted unregulated, unorganized, inefficient, uncoordinated, and uninformed governance arrangements during the first wave of COVID-19, the public health outcome was successful, a paradox that this theoretically informed article seeks to explain. Drawing on insights from blame avoidance literature, it develops and applies an analytical framework that focuses on how allegations of policy underreaction in times of crisis pose a threat to elected executives’ reputations and how these politicians can derive opportunities for crisis exploitation from governance choices, especially at politically sensitive junctures. Based on a historical-institutional analysis combined with elite interviews, it finds that the implementation of one of the most aggressive policy alternatives on the policy menu at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis (i.e., a shutdown of society and the economy), and the subsequent consistent adoption of the aforementioned governance arrangements constituted a politically well-calibrated and effective short-term strategy for Prime Minister Netanyahu.