Let’s get this party started!

Field research theoretically requires planning and organization skills. One is supposed to schedule meetings well in advance, get all the logistics in order and hit the ground running. If you want to do research in Afghanistan, just forget about all that! There isn’t really much you can do from Chicago, Illinois, or from anywhere else outside Afghanistan for that matter. Except maybe sending a couple of emails around to make sure you have a place to crash. But that’s about it. Since most Afghans don’t own a planner, it is really hard to schedule meetings more than one or two days in advance. No matter how important your interviewees are. The only thing you can really do is book a plane to Kabul and start making phone calls as soon as you land.

For me, the first and maybe most difficult task is to find a good interpreter that I can afford. As far as I know, there is no such thing. If you are lucky enough, someone you know might hook you up with an interpreter or, most likely, with someone who speaks English well enough to play that role. It’s not ideal, but it works out eventually. It worked for me for a while, when I was still meeting with as many people as possible, trying to figure out who would turn out to be useful and who would never be. But I’m now at a stage of my research that requires good reliable translations. So maybe I just need to reexamine my budget…

About Afghanopoly

I am an Assistant Professor of peace and conflict studies at Radboud University's Centre for International Conflict Analysis and Management (CICAM). I completed my PhD in Political Science at Northwestern University and Sciences Po under the supervision of Will Reno and Bertrand Badie. Among other things, I teach students about the politics of international intervention in Afghanistan and elsewhere. My research focuses on the political strategies that Afghan strongmen use to consolidate and legitimize their authority. I am particularly interested in how these actors manage to conduct their own forms of international relations. My field research brings me in contact with Afghan community leaders, politicians, diplomats and foreign military officers.
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6 Responses to Let’s get this party started!

  1. I am glad that you are finding the time to update the blog Romain. I am going to be looking out for anecdotes about your field research. Here’s hoping that you find the interpret that you need. Bonne chance! And keep safe!

  2. Valkyrie says:

    Well, look at daunting tasks this way…

    Who’d a thunk that a bunch of protesters in Egypt could get the military to stand with them and “speak truth to power” (telling someone that his decades-long rule has come to an end, because they are no longer going to answer to him or to support him), thus creating massive political change by virtue of merely being incredibly persistent? And they even did it with the internet being shut down for a time!

    Persistence! It seems to somehow work for people.

    Moral of the story: Keep at it (laugh).

    By the way, where are the other class bloggers? I know for a fact that more than half the old class is taking the same seminar together this Winter at NU, so chime in, sometime, you guys! Where is everyone else? Je cherche…mais, non. : (

  3. Afghanopoly says:

    Thanks a lot E.E. As a matter of fact I did find the interpreter I was looking for. Or so I hope… I indeed had to revise my budget, but I’m confident it was for the best. Insh’Allah!

    Valkyrie: where are the other class bloggers? You tell me! Cherche again, and bring them back!!

  4. Valkyrie says:

    Maybe they’re just really really into their current quarter classes and are too busy. That can happen at Northwestern, for sure.


    For anyone still interested in ending this mess (so we can all focus on the ECONOMY!), the latest from Secretary of State Clinton:


    Meanwhile, dictators are being forced out in other parts of the Middle East region without any military intervention from Globocop (aka The United States of America) at all. Nice!

  5. Afghanopoly says:

    By they way, I did find good and smart interpreters both in Kabul and Herat. It makes a BIG difference!

  6. Valkyrie says:

    Good to know!

    Otherwise, you’d have to pantomime and try to communicate that way (rather time consuming, I’d say). LOL

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