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Researching in conflict: interviews from the bridge network archive

Awany, Jimmy (2021) Researching in conflict: interviews from the bridge network archive. . Conflict Research Programme, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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The demands and practicalities of researching in conflict contexts are multifaceted and unpredictable. This task is increasingly shouldered by local researchers on the ground and there is much to learn from the ways they perceive and navigate the research environment. Global inequalities and power dynamics generally place southern researchers at the forefront of research projects under relatively higher risks than their colleagues and employers in the Global North. Sometimes they gain comparatively little from the research outputs and until recently their experiences have remained mostly hidden. In general, their contributions have been significantly under-reported.1 This report focuses on the work of the Bridge Network, whose seven members were responsible for gathering interviews and observations for the Conflict Research Programme (CRP) in South Sudan. We formed the network in November 2017 and have researched from within our own communities in five case study locations: Gogrial, Malakal, Leer, Nimule, and Abyei. Since 2017, we have been researching the logics of governance in South Sudan, a violent and turbulent political arena. Our research has explored not only the transactional politics of the ‘political marketplace’, but also how authority is changing, as well as civic authority and actions.2 The research was implemented under the broad CRP concepts of public authority, civicness, and the Political Marketplace Framework. We have conducted several interviews with a broad mix of South Sudanese, highlighting their stories, experiences, and views. It should be 1 Mwambari, D. (2019). Local Positionality in the Production of Knowledge in Northern Uganda. International Journal of Qualitative Methods. 2 The research was co-designed by Rachel Ibreck, Naomi Pendle, Hannah Logan, and The Bridge Network members. The tax research was designed by Matthew Benson. The team met annually for joint analysis between 2017-2020, including with Flora McCrone, Jimmy Awany, and Matthew Benson in January 2020. noted that due to ongoing active conflict, access to certain locations was challenging, such that the themes and volume of data were not collected systematically across the five locations. This publication reflects on our struggles and showcases our achievements. In what follows, we firstly reflect on the research process and secondly present some of our research findings, including a series of original interviews. The report includes extracts from conversations between members of the Bridge Network and CRP researchers between 2018 and 2020. The discussions were in part aimed at providing the necessary support to the members to ensure their safety, address logistical and ethical challenges, and to document their lessons and experiences for other scholars to learn from. Our conversations reveal some of the difficulties encountered, but also demonstrate the possibilities and skills of a diverse research team working in a conflict zone. We provide new insights into the demands of research in South Sudan and highlight the specific dilemmas involved in being not only a participant observer, but also a member of the community under ‘observation’, whose lives and families were personally affected by many of the issues we were documenting during a critical time of war and political uncertainty. The report is structured along common themes that arose from the discussions.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors.
Divisions: Conflict and Civil Society
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2021 09:48
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2021 15:00

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