Panel 10 – Integrating people’s participation in social media: online research in co-production, co-implementation/co-ownership, and co-benefiting modes
During the second semester of the academic year, January – June 2021, graduate students in “Engaged Anthropology” at the University of the Philippines had been preparing their onsite visits for co-produced research in three Metro Manila informal settlements and one provincial town. The aim was to discuss the information needs raised by the People’s Organizations (POs) on issues they were pursuing in the demand-making of the government. On March 15 the first COVID-19 lockdown happened. The decision was then taken to continue the co-research but to do it via cellphone interviews. Partner NGO community organizers working with the POs explored the proposed conversations with the local leaders. Their positive reply initiated a methodological shift from participant observation to digital anthropology. This Conference panel will feature three of the graduate students with their professor as moderator. They will describe the challenges they faced in making the shift and the lessons learned. The validity of data-gathering via online interviewing is considered. Co-benefits are assessed through the student write-ups of the leaders’ accounts (“stories”) along with their own analysis of the situation. Rappler.com, a widely read news platform, accepted their three jointly authored articles for posting. The group is now pursuing a second round of interviews with the same leaders about community happenings one year later. They are doing so independently of academic requirements and out of personal commitments to people and their community that has developed out of the virtual interactive process.
Host institution: Ateneo de Manila University (Backup : SEA Junction)
Regina Bautista (University of the Philippines, Philippines) – Holding Government Accountable in Covid-19 Lockdowns: Camarin, Caloocan City
Abstract: In the Philippines, doing ethnography amidst COVID-19 lockdown was a necessary challenge to articulate the continuing structural injustices that made living in the dense city of Metro Manila already precarious for the urban poor even before the pandemic. Given the limitations, engaged ethnography meant gathering data through cell phone call interviews and collaborations with key leaders from People’s Organization, the results of which were published in an online news site. As a community leader, my collaborator Malou has had her own projects in the community that addressed pressing community needs as far back as the 80s. Agency, as conceived by Sherry Ortner (2006), is two-fold: agency as power which enables individuals to dominate or resist, and agency of projects which enable individuals to pursue their own projects with their own intentional outcomes. This collaboration was one such project for both of us. What is particular about this encounter, which continues even a year later, is that our notions of resistance were not always framed the same way. This pointed to the differences of social action between what Wataru Kusaka (2017) calls the civic and mass spheres. This collaboration, aside from a project, was thus also a ‘contact zone,’ where two spheres met in dialogue and became a virtual platform for a two-way learning process. People occupying civic zones rightly point out and criticize, but from the ground and within the mass sphere, criticism and accountability during COVID-19 is more complex and exists within situated power relations.
Keywords: Urban Poor; Metro Manila, Philippines; Ethnography; COVID-19; Organizing.
Bio & Contact: Regina Bautista is a lecturer in ballet and dance studies, and is Managing Director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines Choreographers Series. She is currently engaged in Ph.D. studies in anthropology at the University of the Philippines. Her interests include chronicling the efforts of migrant indigenous women in the city to preserve and reinterpret their ritual and dance traditions in informal community settings. The joint article with community leader Ms. Marilou Aquino was published on Rappler.com on April 29, 2020. They are discussing a follow-up article on the community one year later. In collaboration with two senior anthropologists, she has also written on the impact of extrajudicial killings on poor communities.
John Joseph Posadas (University of the Philippines, Philippines) – Dilemmas of the Urban Poor: Male Survival Strategies in Doña Imelda, Quezon City
Abstract: This paper reflects the researcher’s shift during the COVID-19 pandemic from performing standard roles of nurses caring for urban poor communities into a nurse-anthropologist-partnership mode with the residents. Lacking a political voice and insufficiently protected by social networks and other institutional support, urban poor communities were most seriously affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns. In March 2020, the government’s Enhanced Community Quarantine orders left many informal settlements in Metro Manila even more vulnerable to an already precarious situation that further undermined its existing community survival strategies in an increasingly uncertain future. By writing a jointly authored report with community leaders and their NGO supporters for online publication highlighting local explanations of people’s behavior, the researcher enabled the community leader, an articulate tricycle driver, to express publicly his community’s fears and worries, its creative strategies for dealing with the devastating income losses, its demands of government and even a few joyful moments. The experience generated in the researcher an inner bioethical dialogue bringing out his own personal biases regarding ethical considerations related to people’s priorities and challenges. Learning through the lens of an anthropology that visualized community research as co-produced, co-implemented and owned, and co-beneficial transformed, this fulfilled the role of the nurse-researcher as a people’s advocate. In May 2020, the article was published with the urban poor organization and its NGO partners as the researcher as co-authors with the community leader listed first since it was his story. An engaged anthropology enabled the researcher to reach a greater understanding of the socio-cultural effects and political implications of COVID19 along with a personal commitment as a partner with one of the most vulnerable nursing clientele-partners – the urban poor.
Keywords: urban poor, survival tactics, COVID19, engaged anthropology, public health nursing.
Bio & Contact: John Joseph Posadas is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of the Philippines Manila College of Nursing. He is currently engaged in Ph.D. studies in anthropology at the University of the Philippines and has long been immersed in health programs for urban and rural communities. His joint article with Mr. Ricky Calinaya, a tricycle driver in Quezon City, and Ms. Ivy Igup, community organizer, was posted on Rappler.com on May 22, 2020. He and Mr. Calinaya are discussing a second update article assessing the pandemic fallout one year later.
Simone Sales (Association of United Families of the 4Ps/CCT Program, Philippines) – Women Leaders as Enablers in Communities Confronting Economic, Health, Well-being, and Participatory Governance: Implications of Covid-19 in Mindoro Oriental and Santa Ana, Manila
Abstract: The researcher was connected with the Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Pamilya ng Pantawid, a group of leaders and beneficiaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, a conditional cash grant program more popularly known as « 4Ps. » In April 2020, the researcher started a virtual connection through cellphone interviews with Ana Luna from Sta. Ana, Manila and Susana Noche from Oriental Mindoro. The conversations began with “How are you?” and “What do you need?” and while the mothers were from urban poor and rural poor setting respectively, their answers held similar themes: the devastating lack of government aid coupled with the inability to make ends meet for themselves because of the restrictions on mobility, the increased military presence and brutality, and the decreased access to nutritious food, health services, and information. An article for Rappler was co-written by the researcher and the two mothers, to give a platform for their needs. A year and various iterations of community quarantine later, the conversations with the mothers have shifted to the politicization of the coronavirus and vaccines, online distance learning, job security, and community aid, and other strategies to make up for the continued lack of government support.
Keywords: women; community engagement; conditional cash grant; urban poor; rural poor.
Bio & Contact: Simone Sales is a storyteller and researcher from the Philippines. She has a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences with a Specialization in Cultural Heritage and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Anthropology at the University of the Philippines. After the initial Rappler article was released, Simone became the Project Officer of the CSO & Private Sector Coalition for Covid-19 Response, where SNPP is an active partner. She is also a senior high school teacher, a junior member of the Federation of Asian Storytellers, and the founder of Mga Apo ni Lola Basyang, a Manila-based group of storytellers.