In the framework of her dissertation project our Doctoral Researcher Juliana is currently on a 8 weeks field research trip in Bogotá, Colombia. Read more about her field research experiences.
In her dissertation project Juliana is looking at political leaders and peace processes. In her fieldwork she is conducting in-depth interviews with politicians. In this interview she tells us about her experiences.
What are you currently doing on site and how are things going?
Before Christmas I was conducting interviews in Bogotá. I had already talked to several politicians for my master thesis and reconnected with some of them. I conducted some new interviews with former FARC members and asked them about Rodrigo Londono’s alias Timochenko’s leadership. I was surprised that many FARC members wanted to talk to me and allowed me to record the interviews. At the moment I am in Medellin, and I am transcribing the interviews.
What was the biggest challenge when planning your field research?
The biggest challenge was receiving fixed appointments beforehand. Usually, interviews could not be planned in advance and happened rather spontaneously. Another challenge was the current pandemic. In many cases I did not know if the interviewees were vaccinated and I caught Covid at the end of December but recovered quickly.
Which moment during your field research was the most memorable so far?
I was touched by some descriptions about the current life former FARC members are living. I had not given much thought how it could be for them to live in the current society after living for many years in secluded areas without internet and little access to medicine. One FARC member met with me at 7am on a national holiday. After the interview he apologized for the early hour and said that he used to wake up at 4 or 5 am and had not got used to sleep longer. I responded that I was thankful that we met even on a national holiday and that I did not mind the early hour. He looked at me and asked me which holiday it was and when I told him, he responded that he did not know this date was a holiday.
What tips/advice would you give other Doctoral Researchers who plan to conduct field research?
I would recommend not planning to much beforehand. In my experience it is better to be flexible and spontaneous when trying to interview politicians. I also learned that it is best to call them directly or text them via WhatsApp to arrange meetings. It is also very important to be aware that politicians love to talk about themselves, and they are often interested in hearing gossip about other politicians. It can be difficult to maintain a balance between keeping their attention and not sharing too much about other interviewees.