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Ecologies of Harm: Mapping Contexts of Vulnerability in the Time of COVID-19

COVID-19 Research Area(s): Social Impacts

Researchers, activists and other witnesses are well-positioned to identify conditions that have made life harder for certain groups of people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing their knowledge and experience, we invite them to contribute a brief description of local circumstances and states of vulnerability. We hope to generate a kind of witness atlas built upon global networks of collaborating researchers, activists and others who are community-engaged. The project works from a short, online survey that highlights concise, place-based accounts and brings attention to ethnographic and /or grassroots projects. Ecologies will map both local witnessing and larger, global patterns, linking networks of researchers, activists and other witnesses across the world.

As an ethnographic project, we seek brief descriptions that are meaningful on the ground – culturally and linguistically. Information will be mapped in local languages (if available), so it is useful where it matters. We prioritize the participation of those who are themselves researcher/activist and witness to the conditions generating harm. We anticipate that ethnographic descriptions will reveal important variations in the states, situations and/or circumstances leading to “vulnerability.”

The online survey includes a checklist for recognizing situations such as armed conflict, climate change precarity, states of dispossession, encampment, pre-existing colonial /imperial structures, marginalization and stigmatization etc. In addition, we ask about less-visible occurrences, consequential actions, or processes initiated in the “shadow” of the pandemic (e.g., lifting environmental protections, rising incidence of gender violence). The survey questions make visible inequalities that may be outside of mainstream view and support communities by documenting positive, local solidarities, ethnographic and grassroots projects that address critical needs. We encourage researchers to attach references to their own (or other’s) work for further reference. The survey enables audio submissions, images and media links.

We hope to open a space for conversations among witnesses and others that may contribute to solutions-based engagements. Ecologies highlights perspectives that will enhance understandings about the social determinants of health and diverse circumstances that are linked with structural violence. Understanding local particularities better prepares advocates, humanitarian and grassroots organizations, health authorities and civic agencies to respond to unique situations. Knowledge mobilization matters in the face of media silences, unfolding states of insecurity and, the uneven capacity to respond to crises.

Project website

Collaboration opportunities:
Researcher networks
Post date: 
May 19, 2020