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Dr Amita Bhakta, Oxfam’s consultant on the Elrha research project Improving the Lives of Older People with Incontinence, has published her paper – ‘ A Less Muddy Glee’ – on the subject of new online methods of engaging in fieldwork remotely, and her own reflections as to what this means for her as a disabled woman researcher.

Abstract

Challenges to the changing spaces of geography fieldwork have been pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic, through one of the most significant shifts since Bracken and Mawdsley wrote ‘Muddy glee’ in 2004, from ‘doing’ to ‘imagining’ fieldwork. Drawing on personal involvement in conducting virtual qualitative fieldwork during the pandemic on the experiences of older people with incontinence and their caregivers in Ethiopia and Malawi as a researcher with cerebral palsy, this commentary assesses new forms of ‘muddiness’ and the possibilities of inclusive data collection to evoke a sense of glee in the virtual field. The commentary reflects on how, away from challenging environments and in the virtual field, researchers with disabilities can discover a less physically ‘muddy’ glee by being included in fieldwork conducted online. The commentary draws on the new, tacit sense of muddiness experienced due to the physical separation between researcher and participant during the virtual era. The author provides reflections on routes to a new glee using technology and redressing the imbalances of power between researchers from the global North and partners in the global South, to further round out the picture of fieldwork to include women with disabilities going beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

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