Fieldwork in social science research has grappled with the discomfort of being unable to question and dismantle the hierarchy between ‘the researcher’ and ‘the researched.’ Researching with ‘human subjects’ also raises ethical concerns. Anthropology, since its colonial origin, has struggled with the dilemma of ‘studying the other’ despite the breakthroughs provided by immersive ethnography and prolonged connection with ‘the field.’ Besides ethnography, other popular fieldwork practices face criticisms for being too objective and distant (quantitative) and intermittent and selfish (developmentalist or qualitative). These pertinent questions trouble me as a researcher when there are visible social and historical differences between me and my research interlocutors.

Informed by feminist and decolonial practices in my fieldwork, I endeavoured to dismantle any hierarchies between myself and my research interlocutors. Despite that, there were differences and discomforts. By doing patchwork ethnography and adopting digital methodology during the Covid-19 pandemic and thereafter, I went beyond just conducting the fieldwork beyond the temporal and spatial limits. The applied methodologies were a primary aspect of my research journey in the evolving global and local contexts and not mere tools to fetch data and reach the desired end. The engagements I had with my research interlocutors, especially the online interactive sessions with elderly Gurkhas based in the UK between February 2021 and November 2022 were the most gratifying and revealing during the entire research journey. Among a diversity of tools I adopted and activities I involved myself in, I engaged with the interlocutors in random kura (chats/conversations), cracking jokes, playing brain games, teaching English, sharing the news, singing songs, dancing, doing yoga, etc. The closer connections I formed with these women and men of various ages and backgrounds not only aided with my research but also made me value the relationships we subsequently established.

The already problematic practice of the researcher being ‘away’ in the ‘field’ for an extended period and ‘collecting data’ has been long criticised by feminist and decolonial scholars. As the need for remote ethnography grows, the pandemic has opened avenues for scholars to explore innovative methodological practices that do not adhere to established norms in social science research. The meaningful and long-term engagements with the research interlocutors, rather than an intermittent ‘hit and run’ research, have deconstructed the power differences between the researcher and the ‘researched.’ Instead of doing ‘selfish’ research of collecting data and disappearing from the field, I stress that researchers should focus on giving back to the community so that the ownership of the research is collectively shared by both the researcher and the research interlocutors. Rather than preying on information, researchers should ensure a meaningful engagement and contribution to the community. This way, fieldwork can be decolonized and social science research can be humanised.

Keywords: decolonize, digital ethnography, research methodology, kurāgraphy, Gurkha women.