Commoning Landscapes from Home
Building queer ecological commons online at a time of COVID–19
The coronavirus pandemic has limited the ability to undertake in situ ethnographic fieldwork. Digital methods have instead proven popular with researchers gathering qualitative data over the course of the pandemic. Digital methods nevertheless present challenges for studies that have traditionally relied upon experiencing landscapes in situ.
This paper traces some of the epistemological, methodological, and ethical shifts that have taken place within my PhD project as a result of the global pandemic. Within my project, I am investigating how contemporary queer communities have established and maintained inclusive and sustainable commons landscapes. Originally, I had envisaged using in situ ethnographic methods to research experiences of commoning landscapes amongst case study queer communities; however, I have instead embraced a queerly scavenged combination of oral history interviewing, autoethnographic methods, and digital community archiving to meet my original research aims.
Within this paper, I highlight how commoning can shift from a research focus to an ethical and methodological approach at times of community precarity. In doing so, I question the resilience of an in situ/remote binary when researching commoning landscapes. I argue that my new research positioning has enabled this research project to lie more clearly within the theoretical tenets of queer and feminist commoning—particularly in destabilising dualistic patterns of thinking. I contend that digital methods can support commoning landscapes; however, I also raise some of the challenges of using digital methods in the context of researching more–than–human landscape ecologies.
This paper adds to the emerging literature that extends feminist new materialisms and queer ecologies towards commons and landscape studies. I ultimately advocate for researchers to not only consider methodological feasibility when in times of crisis, but to reconsider what role the research(er) has in future world–making.