The ethics of risk research in the time of COVID-19: Ethnography at a distance in privileging the well-being of girls and young women in the context of gender-based violence in rural South Africa.

Mitchell,C., Moletsane, R., & Daryanani, D. (2022). The ethics of risk research in the time of COVID-19: Ethnography at a distance in privileging the well-being of girls and young women in the context of gender-based violence in rural South Africa. In: Brown, P.R., Zinn, J.O. (eds) Covid-19 and the Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty. Critical Studies in Risk and Uncertainty. Palgrave Macmillan: Cham.

Chapter Abstract: In South Africa, police reports, and reports from women’s shelters and hotlines, highlight the negative impact that physical distancing and social isolation are having on already vulnerable girls and young women experiencing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in their homes and communities. In this chapter we examine the intersections among social, economic, spatial, and cultural risks for girls and young women participating in risk-related research in rural contexts during COVID-19 lockdown and explore alternative non-interventionist interventions that could help mitigate the impacts of the lockdown measures on girls and women in poorly resourced rural settings. To do this we frame our work within a generative theory of rurality which acknowledges both the vulnerabilities and assets of rural spaces. Methodologically we draw on work on reflexive ethnography, working with the idea of ‘ethnography at a distance’ which we develop in the chapter. We build on our deep knowledge of the several sites participating in 6-year study ‘Networks for change and well-being’, which were in lockdown at the time of writing. Building on the ubiquitous belief in a ‘silver lining’ of COVID-19, we are interested in the implications of this work for post-pandemic research focusing on SGBV in poor rural communities.

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