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.
An Analysis of Fødselen [The birth] by Norwegian Cartoonist, Blogger, and Nurse Hanne Monge Sigbjørnsen
Adriana Margareta Dancus
This article provides a close reading of Fødselen [The birth], a powerful and provocative comic by cartoonist, blogger, and nurse Hanne Monge Sigbjørnsen aka Tegnehanne in which she depicts her own negative experiences with childbirth during the COVID-19 pandemic. I first place Fødselen in a historical and sociocultural context, highlighting how Tegnehanne draws on the legacies of Nordic feminist comics, participating in recent trends such as COVID-19 comics and graphic reproduction, and tapping into central feminist debates in contemporary Norwegian feminist activism. I then discuss the complex and engaging ways in which Sigbjørnsen depicts the pain of labour and how Fødselen gives important insights into the negotiation of touch in obstetrics during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 Transnational Virtual COVID-19 Interview with Ulf Hannerz
Marek Jakoubek and Lenka J. Budilová
The beginnings of the interview date back to 2019, the year when we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the publication of Ethnic Groups and Boundaries (Barth 1969). We used this event as a springboard for looking back at the rich professional trajectory of Professor Ulf Hannerz, in which ethnicity and other forms of collective identities play one of the key roles. The interview was started after a lecture by Professor Hannerz, ‘Fifty Years of Diversity Watching’, given at the Department of Ethnology of Charles University in Prague in September 2019, and it was finalised during the COVID-19 pandemic online via e-mailing the questions and answers back and forth between Stockholm and Prague.
Global Pandemic and Migrant Women (Im)mobilities in Northern Ireland
This article discusses the usefulness of critical analytical auto-ethnography in studying migrant (im)mobilities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas the auto-ethnographic genre has boomed during COVID-19 times, the authors of auto-ethnographic texts usually focus on their own experiences of the pandemic, engaging in an evocative style of writing. Following an overview of autoethnographic writing genres, this article discusses complex issues of insider/outsider status in pandemic research. It calls for a critical and analytical auto-ethnographic approach to the study of migrations and mobilities in a context in which they are currently unevenly distributed.
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).