PhD Course – Research, Interrupted – Methods and re(design) of Fieldwork in Anthropology and STS

Rachel Douglas-Jones, IT University of Copenhagen
Katrine Meldgaard Kjær, IT University of Copenhagen

Lecturers and facilitators
Keynote: Andrea Ballestero, Ethnography Studio, Rice University USA (confirmed)
Keynote: Marianne Clarke, Vitalities Lab, UNSW Sydney

Facilitators:  Jess Perriam, IT University of Copenhagen and James Maguire, IT University of Copenhagen

Course description

How do we do social research at a time when, for the foreseeable future, borders are closing, global cooperation is yielding to widespread mistrust, and necessary public health accommodations such as “social distancing” create hurdles for both human connection and research? While there are certainly digital and other means for accomplishing our work, what does it mean to do video interviews in a time of “deep fakes”? How do we account for the information that might be lost when physical contact is not possible, the inability to see gestures like toes tapping and nervous hands, the “intersubjective encounter”? Alondra Nelson, SSRC, 2020

This course addresses questions of method and research project (re)design. It is aimed at social science and STS PhD students starting or in the middle of their projects, particularly those facing uncertainty about their project futures. As scholars in STS have long argued, our methods shape how we know, and with some methods being unavailable -for an unknown period – due to COVID-19, this course is designed to open up discussion about the multiple paths of research, ways of handling interruption, ambiguity and uncertainty in research, as well as playing with new responses to changed fields.


The aims of the course are

  1. To broaden the selection of qualitative methods available to students
  2. To enable students to think critically with methods as closely connected to the empirical project work
  3. To develop a space of discussion and imagination around interrupted research, adjustments, and possible new plans, with a view to constraints and possibilities.
  4. To enable students to select methods that perform and enact audiences for their projects

Through peer feedback workshops, students will develop new avenues for imagining their research proposals, and receive constructive commentaries from peer and academics. Students will have the opportunity to discuss the scope for project re-design.

Course Dates
10-12 June 2020


Students should be in the first half of their PhD, and the course will be of most use to students planning on conducting ethnographic work informed by theories from anthropology and STS.

Application Process

  • Name
  • University, Department
  • Title of your PhD and 2 sentences on your motivations to take this course (addressing the prerequisites) 

to [email protected] by Wednesday May 27th. You will be notified of your place on the course by Friday May 29th.

Submission of a 1 page scenario describing the student’s project and ambitions, with a list of 10 ways the project has been affected / or may yet be affected by COVID-19. Send to [email protected] by Wednesday June 8th. This will be used to create pairs and groups with shared interests.

Course Design
Please note that this course is entirely online. It will take place over 3 days, in workshop blocks (morning and afternoon) to combat zoom fatigue.

Each 2 h session will combine discussion of a pre-recorded keynote, breakout group work, and/or Q&A with keynote. Q&A will be scheduled according to the availability of guest speakers. 

Given facilitation requirements, the course will be capped at 25 students. If necessary a selection process will take place based on first come first served principles.

1-2 page speculative fiction describing the finished thesis, the methods used to complete it, and three audiences the project is being presented to. The speculative fiction should be specific in the way it looks back on the process of doing the PhD from the point of its completion, reflecting particularly on the new directions that new methods opened up, drawing on course literature and themes. 

Course Certificates
These will be issued after satisfactory submission of the exam document. 

Course Evaluation
We will invite students to evaluate the course once it has been completed. This will be done electronically, but we will particularly ask for reflections on the digital format of the course, and the role of the course in supporting the re-thinking of ethnographic engagement during the current circumstances.

For more about the ETHOS Lab community please see and for updates to the schedule, please see the course site:

Nelson, Alondra.2020. Society after Pandemic. SSRC Items Series. April 23,2020.