Touching from a distance: gaining intimacy with research participants during the Covid-19 pandemic
ESA RN03 Mid-term online conference “Biographical work in a time of social distancing: interview(s), analysis, interpretation”
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers who were conducting biographical interviews were forced to interrupt and reflect upon the data collection process and the effects of face-to-face and home interviews in the intimate nature of the conversations. This was the case of the project “Biographical echoes: triangulation in the study of life histories”. This presentation focuses precisely on the challenges faced, strategies developed and methodological reflections on how to deal with these disruptive effects of the pandemic on the research. Instead of insisting in a “return to normality”, proceeding with the initial plan of carrying out interviews with new people, we decided to reach out to the previously interviewed individuals and maintain contact with them: some were re-interviewed by phone, some sent us photographs of their daily lives during the domestic confinement. We basically chose to build new conditions for intimacy over the supposedly perfect set of conditions for biographical interviews, while maintaining the commitment with the Biographical Method. We argue that this biographical continuity produces a surprising effect of increased intimacy and empathy between researchers and participants. These research choices also opened up the black box of daily life as a “real time” indicator of biographies.