What does research on informal sector workers and the state entail in the time of Covid-19? The pandemic has limited possibilities for in-person interactions and required adaptations in research approaches. These challenges are exacerbated when the subjects of the research are informal sector workers with limited access to technology and undefined spaces of work. In this article, we argue that the Covid-19 pandemic has magnified distances: between researchers located globally; between researchers and respondents; and between the state and people within informal employment. However, these distances also create new ways of working and opportunities for doing research. We discuss the challenges faced in the field, document the adaptations introduced to ensure robust research in difficult settings, and set out the limitations that remain. We also examine the ethical dimension of confronting dangerous misinformation related to the pandemic while conducting interviews, and the questions it raises about the distance between research and prescriptive advocacy in academia.
Volume 53 Number 3
Published: July 27, 2022