GIGA Doctoral Researcher Désirée Reder has been conducting field research in Costa Rica since April. For the qualitative case study of her dissertation project titled "Repression against peaceful protest. Legitimation and justification of state violence in Nicaragua" she makes use of semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Learn more about Désirées's experieces in the field in the interview below.
Désirée Reder has been conducting field research in Costa Rica since April. For the qualitative case study of her dissertation titled "Repression against peaceful protest. Legitimation and justification of state violence in Nicaragua”, she makes use of semi-structured interviews and focus groups.
What are you currently doing on site and how are things going?
I am conducting interviews with Nicaraguans in Costa Rica. Most of the people I have talked to are exiled journalists, political activists, and human rights lawyers. The snowball effect is working really well and I now have to meet the challenge to schedule all the interviews I want to conduct in the time remaining.
What was the biggest challenge when planning your field research?
The political situation in Nicaragua in combination with the pandemic. When I first started to plan my research stay, Nicaragua was the destination. But the pandemic interfered and delayed my departure. When the pandemic developments finally allowed me to travel, the political situation in Nicaragua had evolved so critically that conducting research in the country had become too dangerous.
Which moment during your field research was the most memorable so far?
One of many moments: A few days ago, I visited a folklore festival to interview some people. Shortly after I arrived, I was invited to go to the cinema. I hesitated because I had not interviewed anyone at the festival before. Besides, I thought a visit to the cinema was inappropriate, wasn't I supposed to be working? Despite my doubts, I went to the cinema, and it turned out to be the premiere of a documentary about the conflict in Nicaragua, with the director present. At this event I met some of the people I had interviewed before and others I had been hunting down for weeks.
What tips/advice would you give other Doctoral Researchers who plan to conduct field research?
Find a university or institution hosting you during your time of your research stay. Being guest researcher at the university not only provided me with basic infrastructure but it was also university contacts who helped me to get started with my interviews.
Be safe – Especially when conducting inter- views outside of your host institution, let someone know where you are going. Best, you have someone in your host country, who you trust and keep informed.
Look after yourself – it is one thing knowing in theory about mental health, but something very different to remember it during your field stay. Especially when working on topics re- lated to violence and conflict. Although you might think you have some scientific distance, these topics may affect you emotionally. You are still a human being, and it is natural to be empathetic and be touched by the stories shared with you.
Be flexible – I guess it is good to have a general plan for your field visit, but things hardly ever happen as anticipated and often the most valuable experiences manifest spontaneously.