POPBREBEL Czech Ethnography

POPREBEL Czech ethnography


  • To analyse the recent transformations within work, household and care as deeply interconnected and key areas most affected by the socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. The objective is to explore how the lived experiences of these transformations impact people’s political choices, beliefs and practices (across social strata).

  • To test the hypothesis that the current crisis is going to reinforce the pre-existing illiberal and authoritarian discourses present in the society.
    -Through the process of further alienation and sense of fatigue (digitalization, teleworking, masking), intensified by a profound sense of economic insecurity (Kubik 2018).

  • To identify what new forms of populism emerge out of the covid-19 crisis, in the context of Czech.
    -Political parties and other cultural entrepreneurs :point_right:conspiracy theories groups, anti-lockdown/mask/vaccine movements, ‘agents of change’ etc.

  • A comparative study on the rise of populist sentiments in Czechia, Germany (Djan) and Poland (Mania).


1. Classic ethnography

  • Semi-structured interviews conducted online.
    -Long-term plan: to gradually move some of these interactions and engagements on the Edgeryders platform.
    o Access through key informants and snowballing method.
    o Participants: primarily non-university educated and non-city dwelling demographics, supposedly hit hardest by the pandemic.
    -I am to situate the household as the primary unit of analysis as it best amplifies the shifting relations regarding household and work. I hope to explore and complicate the assumed connection between marginality/isolation and susceptibility to narratives of populism.

Research themes:

  • How has the crisis affected the everyday functioning of the household?
    -Re-distribution of reproductive labour (home schooling, teleworking, elderly care).
    -Interpersonal, intergenerational and kin relations.
    -State response to compensate for gaps in family incomes, job insecurity, childcare etc. sufficient/insufficient?
    -Where do you seek help? New emerging forms of solidarity/mutual aid groups extending beyond the family unit.
    o The newly imposed COVID challenges to labour and how they are being responded to by these populist forces.
    -working from home versus working throughout the pandemic.
    -experiences with and perceptions of receiving state welfare support (narratives of deservedness).
    -Hierarchy of professions – who is needed and who is dispensable for the everyday functioning of the society.
    -How are populist entities utilising these societal shifts in their political discourses?

Research questions clusters:
o First-hand experiences of the pandemic.
o Retrotopia.
o Community and family.
o Media-scape.
o Economic and political turning points.
o Political representation, voting, trust in political elites.
:point_right:For more elaborated list see: COMPARATIVE FIELDWORK

2. Digital ethnography

  • Map out the newly emerging populist actors and groups and their influence in the digital sphere.
    -Who are they, what are their political agendas and discourses, what do they campaign against, alliances/enemies, political aspirations etc.
    -What media channels they utilise to attract new supporters and maintain the old ones.
    -Social media as a space for explicitly political mobilisation.
    o Good source to study the supply form of populism
    -The aesthetics of the newly emerging populist forces that bring forwards strong features of nativism and neo-traditionalism.
    -Analysis of the visual content.
    -Anti-liberal, anti-cosmopolitan counter revolution.

o Part 1: social media content and discourse analysis

  • discussion forums, YouTube channels, twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram etc.
    -Good starting point to map out the virtual landscape. Developing an ethnographic understanding of common forms and patterns of expressions.

o Part 2: active participation
-choosing two or three groups to get embedded in.
-entering into discussions with participants.
-Long-term plan: chatnography, semi-structured interviews, discussions at ER

Research plan

  • Continue carrying out semi-structured interviews through snowballing.

  • Create a map of the newly emerging populist actors in the digital sphere.
    -See how to get embedded and participate actively.

  • Create a plan of how to start engaging participants, utilising creative digital methods.
    -On ER.

  • Continue developing the comparative lens with the Polish and German research projects.


Interview summary in ENG :thought_balloon:
S. (22.2.2021) - see the original transcript here.

  • Perspective of a high-school student, living in a smaller town, to be graduating this year.

  • Perceives the covid crisis as deeply impacting on her personal life – restrictions of personal freedoms, abilities to socialise or to continue with her studies.
    -feelings of alienation, insecurity and loneliness.
    -all meaningful social interactions moved to social media (Instagram, tiktok, clubhouse) – this is having a significant impact on her mental health and feelings of isolation.
    -missed the opportunity to go on an Erasmus exchange program, into which she invested a lot of energy and effort and which she saw as “an opportunity to start a new life.”

  • Most significant change has been the switch to online learning – her and majority of her classmates have not been able to adapt to it and struggle to concentrate at home. They feel like they have been ‘robbed’ of their right to education by the government’s inability to implement appropriate measures and supporting infrastructures. The stress is felt particularly by the final year students who feel unprepared to sit the final exams (maturita) and who keep receiving mixed messaging from the ministry of education, regarding the form of these final exams (whether it’s going to be modified or perhaps even cancelled).
    -Emergence of various self-help and mutual aid groups, created by students for students where they share material and exam questions on social media (Instagram, clubhouse etc.)

  • The household dynamics changed dramatically. As everyone in the family is working or studying form home, the mother is increasingly pressured to fulfil the majority of the housework.
    -clear division of gendered roles in the household.
    -“Suddenly a lot of people have to fulfil several roles all at once, which they previously did not have to do. Parents became teachers, women even more pressured to keep up with housework. It really affected the household dynamics.”

  • Labour – our working lives will never be the same, everything will be digitalised and moved online – these are the impressions she gets from her father, who has been on home office since the beginning of the pandemic.
    -the division between working and personal/home spheres is being slowly diminished. Everything takes place in the space of home.

  • Strong sense of being alienated from politics.
    -Politics as something that does not concern her day-to-day reality.
    -“As I am a citizen of this country, I should be paying more attention to politics. But it does not really interest me […] I didn’t go to vote, even though I could have/ should have”
    -She does not feel like she could choose from any of the current political parties.
    -Identifies government as utterly failing in dealing with the crisis – the best solution would be a full lockdown and thinks that the government will not implement it because of the growing pressure from the people.
    -Identifies gov’s erratic and miscalculated decisions as very much influenced by ‘what the people want’.
    -easening of the restrictions in the summer and during Christmas period seen as the chief cause for the situation today (the state of emergency).
    -again, implemented because that is what people wanted.
    “Instead of us people getting together and thinking about the future, about long-term improvement, we pressured the government to ease the restrictions, in order to buy Christmas presents.”

  • Media: the most comprehensible source of information for the majority of young people is the Instagram account @choco_afro of the “youngest and first black member of the chamber of deputies” and a member of TOP09, a liberal-conservative political party. Throughout the pandemic, he has been updating on the government restrictions in place in the form of simple yellow Instagram posts, earning himself up to 1,000,000 followers.
    Ferri as Večerníček - an icon of the most popular television program for children in Czech.
    Source: instagram/choco_afro

-The popularity of his Instagram account further highlighted the government’s inability to put together a comprehensive communication strategy which would ensure citizens’ awareness of what rules they should follow.

Representatives of the opposition party TOP09 (Pekarová Adamová and Ferri) holding a poster in the style of Ferri’s instagram posts that reads: “Government, wake up!”
Source: reflex.cz


Interview summary in ENG :thought_balloon:
E. (2.3.2021) - see the original transcript here.

  • Perspective of a factory worker in his early thirties, who has been commuting to his workplace throughout the pandemic.

  • Perceives covid as exaggerated, as an excuse to curtail our rights and as a tool to profoundly transform society at a global scale.
    -the pandemic generates new business opportunities for certain powerful groups, which manipulate it to benefit their own interests --> business with respirators, vaccines etc… all made in China “it is all corruption, crap and business”
    -it is a way to regulate population growth (“it is not going to be like the second world war, it is going to be different, more biological.”)
    -it is a part of the wider attempt to transform the world: “cryptocurrency, immigrants, the US elections…it is all related.”
    -when asked to identify who these powerful groups are and what they are trying to achieve, E. is unsure.
    “Something is changing, but we do not yet know what it all means. A new era is emerging.”

  • As a person suffering from a metabolic disease, he has had a very good experience with the Czech healthcare system – thinks it’s one of the best ones in Europe.
    -When asked about the vaccine, he said he does not want to get vaccinated, because he does not see the point. No one is forcing us to get vaccinated against a regular flu, so why against covid… he thinks it’s not trustworthy and that not enough time has passed to see its full impacts. “No one really knows what’s happening plus they call it Sputnik…come on!”

  • On a personal level he tries to ignore the pandemic and carry on with his day-to-day life. This is however almost impossible as he cannot meet up with his friends and interact in social contexts as he used to.

  • He feels angered by the constant media propaganda… these days we are not able to hear about anything else than covid.

  • Workplace: smaller company (approx. 50 people), producing x for the international market.
    -Officially in his contract, he has only half of his salary confirmed – the rest is paid to him unofficially.
    -precarious and uncertain working conditions.
    -Since covid started, there was no attempt by the management to implement any safety measures (masks, gels etc.) – the workers had to demand it themselves.
    -Workers were told, that in case they start getting symptoms or test positive, they should not state that they’ve been at work. *track and trace system
    “We got the instructions at work that we cannot state that we’ve been at work prior to testing positive…this way, even if track and trace found out we’ve been lying about it, the blame would be on us as individuals. It works like this in so many factories, because they are afraid they would have to shut down."

  • Politics: sense of alienation, what we have today is politics hollowed out of ethics or moral responsibility.
    -E. does not understand why people vote Babiš or support Zeman (the key populist actors prior to the pandemic).
    -E. has no faith in any of the existing political parties – those who had some moral compass or genuine interest in the citizens’ wellbeing have left long time ago.
    -Government’s handling of the pandemic seen as a disaster…critique of the restriction easening during Christmas “they should have used this opportunity to make Christmas meaningful again…to make it about family and not about buying presents…but no, it had to be all about money and business again.”
    -the people in power in Czech are using the crisis to make profit – they knew it was coming, it was all planned… that’s how he explains the sudden changes in rules.

  • Strong sense of uncertainty, insecurity and instability.
    -E. is deeply worried that he might lose his job as a result of the crisis. He does not know how is he going to manage if this happens.
    -uncertainty about the ‘new world’ that is coming and his role in it… how can we prepare for what is coming, if we cannot see what’s going on behind the curtains.


really great work @jitka.kralova, hope my upcoming interview will be able to unearth equally intriguing sentiments

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Thanks Djan :slight_smile:
Looking forward to do the comparison.

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Interview summary in ENG :left_speech_bubble:
O. (9.3.2021) - see the original script.

  • Perspective of a high school teacher, from a smaller town, who had to adapt to a fully online teaching.

  • Dealt with the changes associated with the corona crisis surprisingly well. She says it is because, both her and her husband have stable job contracts (both work as teachers) and were able to adapt to the online regime quite easily. During the pandemic, O. had more free time for herself and her family – she discovered new hobbies and returned to activities which she wasn’t able to do before (due to time pressure). She introduced a very healthy routine to her everyday life and was able to support and spend time with her only son, who was preparing for his final school exams (maturita).

  • Was hoping to get vaccinated as she is a teacher, however her school decided to vaccinate only teachers above 55 years old. This was disappointing for her, as her husband is at high-risk. The government left the management of each school to decide, which of their employees they want to vaccinate. O. knows of other schools, which are planning on vaccinating all of their teaching staff.
    -O. said she would like to get back to face-to-face teaching, but without being vaccinated, she won’t feel comfortable. This is especially after she witnessed, how carless students are in following the rules (wearing masks, disinfecting hands etc.).

  • Thinks covid is very serious and sees the mainstream discourses and governments’ responses as legitimate and necessary. (Although does not agree with all the government’s steps in handling the pandemic).
    -Thinks that the almost year-long closure of schools has been the only viable solution, as schools are the centres of covid contagion and students are not able to follow the rules.

  • According to O., people who deny covid do it as a way of self-defence mechanism – a sort of psychological reaction to a set of new and unexpected circumstances. Another reason is that people naturally question things, and they enjoy conspiracy theories and mysteries.

  • The main reason behind the current Czech ‘worst in covid’ situation is that people do not follow the rules. This is because, according to O.,:
    1.they do not have trust in the government and the institutions.
    2.The spread of conspiracy theories and discourses, that covid is not as dangerous. Circulated even by doctors and medical experts (from fields outside of epidemiology).
    –>Subsequent lack of fear of the virus among people.

  • She follows public service media (CT1, CT24) and thinks their standard of news broadcasting is very high.

  • Doesn’t know about any country, which would be satisfied with the way their governments have been handling the pandemic.

  • She thinks it’s typical of Czechs to be always complaining, to be focused on the negatives and have a very narrow perspective which does not reach beyond the national borders.
    “We are generally too preoccupied with our domestic matters. Germans, of course, feel a much greater responsibility for Europe as a whole and for the development of democracy.”
    This is because we don’t have such a high self-esteem as other countries such as the UK or Germany, which had democracy for longer than 30 years.”

:books: Resonates with the discourses of ‘transitology’ scholarship, which compares the emerging postsocialist macrostructures of state and economy with ‘desired’ western models, accounting any shortcomings of the transition process to “socialist legacies” or “culture” (Burawoy and Verdery 1999).
:books: Zaricky: ‘Ideologies of Eastness in Central and Eastern Europe’ (2016)

  • O. aso highlights, that Czechs don’t tell the truth and have a tendency to always somehow circumvent the rules.
    -She uses the example of ‘track and trace’ system, which has completely failed in CR as people tend to not announce their immediate contacts (once tested positive).

-Studies have shown, that only 1/3 of people who are in risk will get tested (CR).

:thought_balloon:The lack of trust in the state and its institutions has been commonly observed across the CEE region.
-This also applies to a lack of interpersonal trust - according to a research by European Social Survey and ISSP, respondents from across postsocialist Europe experience a general lack of trust among citizens, stating that ‘the majority of people would try to trick you, if they got the chance.’
-This is then reflected in the institutional approach to social welfare politics - in Czech, as well as in other CEE countries, social welfare constitutes a lower % of the GDP, in comparison to western Europe. Recipients of state welfare are also subjected to more rigorous controls and checks (source).
-Moreover as Trlifajova, an anthropologist studying precarious labour in the CR argues, receiving state support is highly stigmatised. This revealed itself even more dramatically during the pandemic, as many people who suddenly became eligible for state support, did not receive it, either because they were ashamed to apply for it or because they struggled to navigate the extremely complicated and bureaucratic process.
-Explanations of this trend are several, but the historical experience of socialism has certainly played an important role:
:books: As Hirt observes in her ethnographic work on postsocialist privatism, “Socialism did not obliterate the private; it obliterated the public – not as an institution, but as an ideal” (2012: 22).

  • O. criticises the management of industrial plants for encouraging its workers to not register their contacts (track and trace), or even to come to work if having light covid symptoms.
    :point_right: As interview with E. shows.

  • This also concerns arrangements, where home office would be completely viable. Nevertheless, employers still ask their workers to be physically present at the workplace, because they think that the employees “will work less while at home…and the company would loose profits.”

:thought_balloon:The discourse of nemakačenko - ‘lazy workers’ and ‘welfare abuser’ is extremely pervasive in the Czech context, and is part of the dominant neoliberal ideology, which has been strongly cultivated since the era of privatisation in the 90s.
-However, as the latest sociological research Život během pandemie reveals, people have been in fact attending work, even when they should have stayed at home. The study found that:
:point_right: Over 50% kept attending their workplace, while suffering from mixed covid symptoms.
:point_right: Over 80% kept attending their workplace, after being exposed to someone who tested positive.

-This is clearly an outcome of the government’s failure to provide a sufficient financial compensation for those staying at home while ill.
-And one of the explanations for government’s unwillingness to increase the compensation is that
the people would ‘abuse it’ and stop going to work.


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G. (5.2.2021) - see the original transcript here.

:syringe:Perspective of a recently recruited nurse, working at the covid intensive unit in a town, 60km away from Prague.

  • Ascribes the current ‘worst in covid’ situation to people not following the government restrictions.
    -This is because they do not trust the government led by ANO.
    -Also because the restrictions themselves are chaotic, confusing and not working.
    -G. is not surprised that people don’t feel motivated to follow the restrictions.

  • She signed up to work as a nurse when the situation worsened after Christmas, because she needed to do something and be among people.
    “Getting this job was my greatest relief.”
    -Prior to that, she was staying at home with her parents, feeling increasingly bored and ‘useless’.

  • In the hospital (which is owned by the region but has a private owner), she works at the ‘most serious’ covid ward, where “people are sent to basically die”.
    -She works 12 hour shifts in a covid regime, where for 3 hours medics rotate and stay in the ‘infected’ area and for 3 hours they have to stay outside.
    -G. says that the issue is not a lack of hospital places (as keeps being highlighted in the media), but the lack of staff. In her hospital, they had to close several regular wards to send medics into the covid one. The majority of nurses that have been transferred are unhappy but have no other choice than to stay.
    -The hospital ‘has run out of money’ and medical staff is severely underpaid.
    -They have to use the same respirators, because the hospital does not have enough. Officially, medics are supposed to throw them away after each 3-hour shift.
    -G. gave me several descriptions of how mentally demanding and tough the job is. But she is glad she has work, because it is better than to stay at home.

  • Her father works in a factory and has been attending his workplace throughout the pandemic. He has been told by the management to keep going to work, even if he tests positive – and G. heard the same story from several other people.
    -G. says that it would be unrealistic for her father to stay at home on the 60% salary compensation, because majority of his wage is constituted by overtimes, night shifts or holiday work bonuses.
    -According to G.’s father, his co-workers kept attending the workplace not wearing masks or even when they or someone in their family tested positive.
    (My earlier interview with E. confirms this point).

  • She looks for all the relevant covid updates on the instagram account of Dominik Ferri (same as S. in my earlier interview).

  • G. understands that small-business owners and employees from across hospitality industry have been protesting against the government restrictions – the government didn’t provide any sufficient support for them and many of them went bankrupt.
    -She does not understand the wider anti-covid movement – she thinks those people are crazy.

  • In terms of covid conspiracies, she is overwhelmed by the amount of them circulating in the digital space. What she agreed on with the other nurses working with her is that covid has been artificially created to control population growth.
    “We are 7 billion and there are loads of old people…the states don’t manage anymore to pay for all these pensions. It ruins the state budget […] it is like the third world war, but without weapons and tanks. It is easier to release a deadly virus.”
    “We, common people, will never find out the whole truth. Only those powerful above us know what is going on.”

  • She got her first vaccine jab (Pfaizer) but was warned by her aunt who works in the pharmaceutics, not to get vaccinated by AstraZeneca (Jitka’s note: this was long time before AstraZeneca was temporarily suspended).

  • She feels completely disillusioned with Czech politics – she does vote, but does not find any of the parties interesting or representative of her interests.
    -She sees the politicians as absolutely corrupt – their salaries, all the benefits and bonuses are completely disproportionate to the lack of work they do.
    -they are lacking any moral compass or discipline.
    -She sees Babis and ANO as bluntly populist – throwing money to state employees and pensioners, even though the state budget cannot afford it.
    -They always introduce these benefits before elections, to buy people’s votes.
    -G. said, that if she worked in the public sphere, she would also vote for Babis, knowing the number of benefits she would receive.
    :de:The only country in Europe she could think of that has a better political representation is Germany – there is more young people entering electoral politics.
    -This is what our country would need, because the current politicians are representing old views and are all corrupt.
    • Does not understand why, when the world is going through this pandemic and people are struggling, everything is becoming more expensive. “Food, gas, properties…everything is getting more expensive. I was hoping that the world would stick together, but the opposite is happening.”

Conversation summary in ENG :thought_balloon:
M. (20.3.2021) - see the original transcript here.

:czech_republic: :de:A perspective of a roma gypsy male from Czech, who moved to a German town (in East Germnay).

  • Mentioned the current discussions about covid pases in the German media. Talked about the efforts to introduce a law, which would prevent discrimination on the basis of not being vaccinated.

  • Has adjusted to the ‘lockdown’ regime quite well, and although he misses his old social life, he also discovered some positives, such as saving money, reconsidering life values etc.

  • According to him, the online gay dating scene did not change during covid much at all. People keep seeing each other without any issues (reference to grinder).

  • Sees the anti-lockdown protests in Germany as absolutely useless. “They cannot change anything…moreover, the government here knows, what they’re doing (contrary to Czech)."

  • He feels much less discriminated against as a roma gypsy in Germany, than in Czech. “The situation is very different here.”

  • The most significant difference between Germany and Czech is the attitude of the state:
    -In relation to covid:
    “Each of us received a paper, with which we could go to the pharmacy and ask for ten respirators for free. It’s a small detail, but it’s a way in which the government is telling you, that they want to help and support you…it doesn’t matter if you have a job or not. Everyone got it.”
    Police responses:
    “Here if you are on the street and you don’t wear a mask, they either politely stop you and remind you, or they don’t say anything at all. Not like in Czech, that five policemen jump on you and throw you on the ground for not wearing it.”

:oncoming_police_car:1st of March, Czech – the government restrictions tightened as a result of an alarmingly worsening situation in the hospitals. Since then, people across the web have been sharing series of videos (from across the country), capturing a disproportionately violent police interventions, targeting citizens not wearing or refusing to wear a mask. This has angered large section of the web users and have been circulated widely by several anti-lockdown/anti-gov. groups.

One of the widely circulated videos, showing a man in Uherské Hradiště, being thrown on the floor by police for refusing to wear a mask. The whole scene is witnessed by his crying son. Source: https://www.facebook.com/thomasgeorg.poehlmann/videos/3961628607232500/?t=5

  • In relation to people on benefits: “Here they are not harassing and interrogating you all the time. They are not requiring you to attend job centre appointments all the time to justify, why you don’t have a job […] They are not harassing you, they are trying to support you.”
    -M. asserts, that the German state was providing sufficient support during covid.

:pushpin: This supports the point I mentioned elsewhere, regarding the hostile nature of the Czech social welfare system and welfare politics in general.

  • Acknowledges that the virus is serious, he himself went through it, but thinks, that the majority of the covid deaths is due to prior health complications. “but no one says that.”

  • Touches upon several of covid related conspiracy theories, such as that “they said, that 30% of people who get vaccinated, will die.” or the chip insertion conspiracy. Mentions that he read it online, but is not sure whether the information was true, or manipulated.

  • Thinks that the whole covid crisis is used for population growth control and elimination of older generation “who are not doing anything, are only receiving, so more old people need to die so the states save money.” (this view was expressed in my several other interviews).

  • Does not think that any of the ‘spokespersons’ of the Czech ‘anti-lockdown’ movement has much potential. Only liked the speeches of Václav Klaus (Czech ex president), who said that the covid restrictions are systematically destroying the czech state, and will leave the country in a huge debt for generations to come.“

    Credits: Petr ‘Zewlak’ Vrabec
    Václav Klaus, speaking at the ‘anti-covid’ demonstration at Old Town Square, Prague (11.1.2021)

Interview summary in ENG :thought_balloon:
L. (31.3.2021) - see the original transcript here.

I got a contact for L. through another person. I was interested to interview her because she lives in the Chebsko region, which was for several months, the worst covid-affected region in Czechia. Its close proximity to the border with Germany provoked a series of debates on cross-border (in)solidarity, which I described in more detail here.

  • L. is a teacher by profession, and it was important for her to talk to me about the impacts of covid and confinement on children’s development.
    :books:Through her perspective of a teacher from a small town, she observed how underprepared the majority of schools and families were in switching to the online schooling.
    :house:Families are constrained by lack of space (in the house), weak internet (“some families who live in the mountains nearby cannot reach wifi signal in their homes”), lack of technology and time to help their children with schoolwork.
    -For L. the greatest impact is going to be on children’s mental health. In her school, there are a lot of cases of children, who started seeing a psychologist as a result of the problems associated with covid-imposed confinement and isolation.
    -According to L., the state put in a minimal effort in helping schools to deal with the transition. She sees the government restrictions as absolutely random and under-planned.
    -Also raised the problematic of children with handicap and how they cannot be incorporated into the online schooling.
    :money_with_wings:Schools in her region lack resources and qualified assistants and teachers (even before covid). One of the reasons, is because the teacher salary is incredibly low.
    “Whenever you go to the job centre, there’s always an ad looking for teachers and assistants.”

  • Only visible support was coming from the online service providers / platforms such as MS Teams, zoom etc. which exploit this situation to generate more profit and new customers for themselves.
    :computer:Process of digitalisation
    -A sense that as a society, we are undergoing a profound economic, social and cultural transformation.
    -Children increasingly addicted to technology :arrow_right: changing habits of children.
    “Already, in Germany there are rehab centres for children from the age of 3, addicted to technology.”
    -Young teenagers exposed to pornography from an early age. Especially boys are getting hooked on computer games.
    “Now everyone had to set up a gmail for their children…I don’t want my 12 year old son to have a gmail account, but you have to do it…” (in order for them to keep up with the online schooling).
    -Loss of privacy
    “For me, the alarming thing is that for a lot of people, this is becoming the new ‘norm’ […] it is comfortable to leave the kids in front of the screens…”
    -Small children are starting to develop eye problems such as conjunctivitis, because of too much screen exposure.

  • Initially didn’t think that covid was so dangerous, but after seeing what was going on in her region – with hospitals collapsing and so many people dying – changed her opinion.
    “Gradually, the illness started spreading through more and more areas… it entered your region, your acquaintances, your street and finally your own family. Suddenly it became very real and material.”
    -Thinks the worst part of it is the fear that is spread by the media. She thinks they manipulate people with fear.
    -Earlier this year, L. got ill with a regular, but strong flu, and immediately called herself an ambulance, thinking it was covid.
    “I wasn’t even so worried for myself, but for the fact, that my neighbours could find out…so I was mostly worried for how it would affect my social network/standing.”

  • Compares the management of covid to x (a Scandinavian country), where her daughter lives and where they present the covid measures in the form of recommendations, rather than restrictions – she prefers that.
    “There, no one shouts at you if you don’t have the mask. Whereas here, in our small town, people write on facebook posts like: ‘He went to the shop, put on the mask just before entering the door, and he’s covid positive’" *FB community group of the municipality.
    “Here, people tell on each other (bonzovat). I think this is something very specific to Czech Republic.”
    -Czechs are not accepting of difference. “We are not used to have other nationalities among ourselves… we are Czech, and even a gypsy is a problem for us.”
    :point_right:She explains it due to the travel ban under state socialism and due to the media, always portraying the worst out of other ethnicities.

  • She does not follow mainstream media, because they are too much about the ‘visual reporting’ and through that they are communicating: ‘to be scared, because if you are scared, you lose your freedom.’

  • On the event of Czech government rejecting the help from Germany in February (explained here).
    -Commenting on the health minister Blatny’s visit, L. said that he tried to put all the blame (for the covid emergency situation) on the local mayor.
    “What I cannot understand is how our government can have the power to decide, whether our patients will or will not be able to be transported to German hospitals.”
    -It could have saved a lot of lives, but crossing the border was banned by the state.
    “Instead of going half an hour to Germany, you had to go 6 hours to Brno. An absolute nonsense. This decision should have been in the hands of the mayor.”

  • On encountering ‘politics’ in times of crisis:
    “I am a completely apolitical type, I don’t understand it, but in these gov. decisions, you could suddenly clearly see the politics. Suddenly you realised, that no one really cares about you. Politics = lack of care
    -L. felt abandoned by the state and by the healthcare system which completely collapsed in her region.

  • Community responses to the medical emergency in the region:
    :handshake:Lots of people got together to try to help and encourage the medical staff in different ways (baking cakes, buying fresh food for them etc.)

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Interview summary in ENG :right_anger_bubble:

X. (2.4.2021) - see the original transcript here.

Perspective of a regional manager working for an international firm, who lives in a smaller Czech town. Has been working from home since the beginning of 2020.

  • In many ways, his work became much more effective – he is happy with the transition. X. saves a lot of time traveling abroad for team meetings and also commuting to his office.
    :house:Can work comfortably from his home – each member of the family has their own room to work/study in.

  • He identifies the key problem behind the Czech ‘worst in covid’ situation in the anti-Babis movement – the opposition does not let the government to deal with the situation in peace.
    X. also thinks this is largely because the pandemic coincided with the upcoming elections. The political parties are trying to gain points, instead of rationally dealing with the pandemic.
    “For everything that is wrong in this country, Babis gets blamed.”
    -The government has done some mistakes, but it is to be expected in such an unprecedented situation (covid).
    -X. blames the second and third waves on the pressure put out by the public, which was mounted by the opposition.

  • The way out of it would be via full country lockdown, but the state cannot economically afford to close down all the big industries and factories.
    We are not Germany…we cannot afford to shutdown the export industry.”

  • People do not respect the government restrictions.
    “They confuse democracy with anarchy.”
    -Criticises the politicians for leading the wrong example (e.g. not wearing masks in the parliament).

  • Highlights the threat of disinformation campaigns, spreading lies about covid.
    “Behind everything is money and power…same with the disinformation campaigns. They are spread by marketing experts who cooperate with the political parties to come up with new strategies aimed at gaining political points for themselves and impairing their rivals.”

  • Describes the current political representation as corrupt: thirsty for money and power/influence.
    -They do not deal with things that are important, but focus solely on the ‘anti-Babis’ rhetoric and an unproductive critique of the government.
    -They are lacking any moral basis.
    -Feels very disillusioned with politics and does not even know who to vote.
    Will probably vote someone, just to block other parties he does not want to win.

  • “Today, the parties which gain the most political points are populist parties […] People are really stupid… its enough to give them some topics, which are easy to communicate, and they completely succumb to it.”
    -This for X. represents a big shift in voters’ behaviour compared to past times, and it is a phenomenon observable across whole of Europe.
    -According to X., it is because as a European society, we reached a level of affluence and prosperity, which corrupts us and shifts our attention from important issues (“where to get food”), towards topics of political correctness.
    “Instead, we focus on whether is it ok for an African/black poem to be translated by a white woman, or whether black person has to do it…whether in companies, we should have gender quotas…whether we should accept refugees from Africa…whether instead of combustion engine, we should use electric motors…”
    -On the contrary, the generational correctness, which is important to X., is steeply declining.
    -Does not like to see young people in important political positions, as they are lacking experience and expertise.

  • The priorities which the government should focus on are:

  1. economic/business power.
  2. social welfare: healthcare + education
  • :eu:European Union
    “CZEXIT, we must leave the EU.”
    -Identifies the distribution of EU funds as ineffective and easy to misappropriate.
    -The funds never reach the places, where they are needed,
    -Sees the question of national sovereignty as very important.
    “The officials in EU decides about what happens in our country. The great example is now with the vaccines.”
    :syringe:Mentions Orban and Johnson for successfully securing the necessary amounts of vaccines for their citizens, outside of the EU redistribution scheme.
    -The EU has punished Czech, Slovenia and Austria, for raising a critique against the EU system (of vaccine redistribution) – now we are being punished, and not receiving the vaccines that we need.
    -The EU-enforced political correctness is controlling majority of the debates and putting a strain on freedom of expression.
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POPREBEL Czech Ethnography, phase 2: Shifting to online spaces

Phase I. summary

The first phase of my ethnographic fieldwork consisted primarily of in-depth and semi-structured interviews, focused on the socioeconomic impacts of the covid crisis in the spheres of labour and care. I aimed at getting a snapshot into the nature and diversity of the lived circumstances and experiences of the pandemic and its effects. Developing from these insights, I set out to capture the participants’ changing political attitudes, beliefs and behaviours and establish a broader connection between the covid crisis and the new emerging forms of populist politics. My participants have been sampled through a snowballing method, which targeted primarily non-city dwelling and non-university educated demographics.

Preliminary and generalised findings:

The covid crisis has deeply impacted all spheres of life. Alongside the material changes at work and household levels, participants commonly expressed its negative psychological effects→ feelings of isolation, anxiety and hopelessness, digitalisation of all their social interactions, loss of their futures and opportunities (particularly among the younger generation).

  • In some cases (primarily middle-class participants who could work from home), the pandemic has brought some positive changes to their lifestyles - finding more time for themselves (new hobbies and interests) and for their families.

The household dynamics :house_with_garden:

  • The extent of ease with which participants could adjust to the ‘lockdown’ measures has been largely dependent on their socioeconomic status (question of housing/space, available technology, childcare duties etc.).
  • Very few female participants named the phenomenon of increased pressure/burden to perform household duties, even when it was clearly present.

Labour :hammer:

  • Large disproportion between those allowed to stay at home-office and those having to attend their workplace.
  • Accounts describing lack of safety measures at industrial workplaces. Cases of management instigating their employees to lie at track and trace or even worse to keep attending work, even if tested positive.
  • Direct exposure to the virus – shift in mentality – you cannot be scared of the virus, if your everyday work/livelihood necessitates being in close proximity to it.
  • A wider societal debate on whether a full lockdown/shutdown of big industries should have been implemented. Economy > Human lives.

Political views :envelope_with_arrow:

  • Regardless of socioeconomic standing, age, gender, or the extent to which corona impacted their lives, almost every participant expressed a sense of frustration and disillusionment with the current government and the political representation at large.
  • The government has failed to manage the ongoing crisis and repeated the same mistakes over and over, due to a pressure from the public (and the parliamentary opposition) to ease the restrictions. It acted in a blatantly populist manner, which has cost thousands and thousands of lives.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/CT24.cz/photos/10159780865079009

  • Those who have been dissatisfied with the government before, see this failure to deal with the crisis as telling of their incompetence.
  • Those not so overly critical of the gov., account these failures to the strong pressure of the public and the opposition (anti-Babis movement).
  • None could name any other existing party, which they think could manage the covid crisis better (we are faced with an unprecedented situation).
  • Majority of the politicians are corrupt, incompetent and lazy. They should be doing much more for their citizens, considering how much they get paid (from citizens’ taxes).
  • Czech parliamentary politics hollowed of any morality or ethics.
  • Sense of a large gap between the politicians/their manner of ‘doing politics’ and the people. Lack of representation – majority of the participants, when asked, said they did not know who to vote. There does not seem to be any political party which would represent their interests (however varied they are).

Public institutions :bank:

  • Loss of trust in state institutions.
  • The pandemic has unveiled to the “middle classes” (those who, often for the first time, found themselves in need of state support because of covid), that the social welfare system is designed in such a way, to make the receipt of benefits extremely difficult and invasive.
  • Stigmatization around receiving state support.
    *in Czech, as well as in other CEE countries, social welfare constitutes a lower % of the GDP, in comparison to western Europe. Recipients of state welfare are also subjected to more rigorous controls and checks (source).
  • Widely circulating discussions on the extent, form and amount of state compensations during the pandemic. A notion that if the state paid the full compensation, people would abuse it.
    *The discourse of nemakačenko - ‘lazy workers’ and ‘welfare abuser’ is extremely pervasive in the Czech context, and is part of the dominant neoliberal ideology, which has been strongly cultivated since the era of privatisation in the 90s.

  • Fears over growing state debt – the Czech economy cannot afford to compensate for the loss of income (re: covid). Fear over the uncertain futures – global financial crisis.

COVID conspiracies :syringe:

  • Almost all participants mentioned to have been exposed to some disinformation campaigns and covid related conspiracies circulating in the digital sphere.
  • A general sense of mystery surrounding the epidemic. There might be something ‘bigger’ going on behind the scenes that we (as regular people) do not know about.
  • Covid as a tool to achieve a profound geopolitical transformation at a global scale.
  • Bringing new opportunities for capital accumulation.
  • Frequent mentions of covid as a biological weapon, artificially invented to curtail worldwide population growth.
  • General mistrust and uncertainty around vaccination.

National identity :czech_republic:

  • Czech people described as inward looking, envious and individualistic (weak sense of collective identity).
  • Lacking an international perspective + intolerant to difference.
  • Tendency to always somehow circumvent the rules.
  • Germany repeatedly described in the manner of an unfulfilled aspiration (politically, economically, socio-culturally)

Phase II. What’s next?

In the second phase of my fieldwork, I intend to focus explicitly on online spaces where, to put it more broadly, Czech netizens express their views re: the covid crisis and its political handling. While during the first phase of my fieldwork, I approached the research questions via the problematic of covid and its socioeconomic impacts, I now intend to shift the focus on their political expressions in the online spaces. In doing so, I will use the outcomes of my initial research to better contextualise the multiple interactions/discussions taking place on the web.

Research themes:

1. COVID and state responses to it, focus on the spheres of labour and care.

  • The changing views and preferences of the middle class in the Czech Republic (and beyond?).
  • What is driving people to populism and right-wing organizations/parties?
  • Precariatization leading to radicalization?
  • Failing institutions / cardboard state.

2. Upcoming elections in the Czech Republic.

  • Reshuffling in the Czech political field prior to the upcoming elections.
  • Shift towards Russia’s influence (Dukovany nuclear power station, Sputnik, public service media – changes in the CT, covid disinformation campaigns).

3. The changing features of populism in Czech / Czech populism

  • The character of Babis’ technocratic populism and emphasis on centrism.
  • Is the covid crisis bringing new populist (right-wing) discourses to the surface?
  • Emergence of new political movements and parties, their core being a direct opposition to covid government restrictions (anti-vaxx, covid deniers, conspiracy theorists).
  • Women in right-wing causes and organisations.


For the sake of a methodologically strong comparison with the Polish and German contexts, I decided to shift my research area to solely Czech online spaces. I will focus on topics which are trending re: the above outlined research themes, and follow their threads and discussions taking place on a diverse range of online spaces. I aim to engage with participants broadly defined as:

  1. Wanderpopulism - people who are ‘searching’ and unsure of their affiliation and orientation (the “undecided” of the political science).
    -People perhaps disillusioned and alienated from the current political scene (resonating with my findings so far).
    Online spaces:
    -Online news outlets discussion forums - novinky.cz, idnes.cz, aktualne.cz (most widely read online news outlets in CR).
    -A2LARM, Eurozprávy, Parlamentní listy, Hospodářské noviny
    -FB group discussions: CT24, Visegradsky jezdec,
    -Twitter, Instagram, Clubhouse

  2. Narrowly defined groups and categories
    – supporter bases of existing or newly emerging ‘populist’ parties/movements
    -Map out the newly emerging populist actors and groups and their influence in the digital sphere.
    -Who are they, what are their political agendas and discourses, what do they campaign against, alliances/enemies, political aspirations etc.
    -Good source to study the supply form of populism: the aesthetics of the newly emerging populist forces that bring forwards strong features of nativism and neo-traditionalism.
    -Analysis of the visual content.
    Online spaces:
    -Social media as a space for explicitly political mobilisation.
    -Participant observation of the communication channels (social media, youtube channels etc.) of some of the ‘populist’ actors.
    -Disinformation channels which publish covid related content – aeronet.cz/aenews.cz, svobodny vysilac, forum.sebesdileni.cz, duchdoby.cz, ac24, protiproud, sputniknews, argumenty a fakta, otevri svou mysl a rizika vakcin…

Research objective

-participant observation

-choosing two or three groups to get embedded in

-entering into discussions with participants.

-Long-term plan: chatnography, semi-structured interviews, discussions on ER.


Hei @jitka.kralova, thanks for publishing documentation, I enjoy reading it from time to time,
I’m sure you’ve thought about this: but is there a way to gauge, during your online chats, who is a paid party supporter/ writer/ troll on the forums, and who is a person with real views of their own not writing based on a script?

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Hi Noemi, thanks for your comment! :slight_smile:

You have a very good point! So far, I haven’t had any suspicions, since the conversations often take place over an extended period and go into quite a lot of depth and detail. I am thinking, that if I were to talk to a ‘troll’ I would probably be able to work it out based on the nature of our conversation, but maybe not. @Maniamana are there is there any general advice on this re: digital ethnography?

Also FYI, we started moving majority of our stuff to the new protected categories https://edgeryders.eu/c/wellbeing/v-cesku-protected/392, due to the changes in the coding practice and the new UCL ethics. :slight_smile:

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The only advice is that you have to rely on your institution, the same you would offline - there is no way to verify whether your responder in a survey or an interviewee is being honest with you. And the same goes for online conversations/meeting people online. The chance is very very small to be fooled, especially if one is experienced in ethnography. Being in touch long-term is a way to build trust that goes both ways. Plus, online, you can see how someone is in the online public sphere, whether in discussions in a FB open group or seeing their IG profile, it public, and if someone has a fake profile it is pretty obvious (f.e. Twitter bots/trolls have impersonal accounts and a high number of tweets, plus sometimes are spikes in activity mixed with long periods of posting absolutely nothing).
Generally, not considered an issue in digital social science, both qual, and quant.


Thanks for clarifying Mania, and also @jitka.kralova’s mention of repeated interactions and going in depth really makes sense. It is surely interesting to watch you guys at work… and looking forward to read the analyses and reports,
Let me know if I can help with anything!

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