Structural dynamics of “Fieldwork” gradually revealed…

What I am learning as I am immersing in my fieldwork and developing the momentum, at an even greater level than I understood before, is that conducting field interviews itself involves navigating social structure and social dynamics in and of itself. Perhaps a paper can be written on this topic upon the completion of fieldwork, even one that could expand on this post…

Just like the deeply embedded hierarchies within the Pakistani society, and within development policy in general, navigating fieldwork in certain environments and contexts much also be hierarchical. In some contexts, going by reference top-down in your snowballing technique is absolutely necessary in order to even be able to speak to people at the ultimate local level, (the level of your interest), among the communities and beneficiaries of these aid programs (with respect to my study). The reason is clear. But it is also quite political. Even these organizations have a difficult time accessing their very own communities. I may have noted this observation in an earlier post. But the Government of Pakistan has made it difficult with the mandatory NOC (No-Objection Certificate). https://dailytimes.com.pk/135629/noc-ingos-tool-corruption/ (just as one example). Overall, connecting and approaching the top dogs and developing trust among them, must be an integral part of fieldwork, which makes it even more challenging among the many layers of challenges. Hence, The actual performance of “fieldwork” for your research, follows the same contextual understanding of how development organizations and practitioners must work: which ultimately involves building trust, sustaining and maintaining relationships, practicing diplomacy, and navigating the social structures of the context of your study.

I had 3 fantastic field interviews today and I returned to the Serena Business Complex to speak to more individuals from the Agha Khan Development Network; as well as the SDPI headquarters to speak to a bright young woman researcher. I really enjoyed the conversation with Samavia on the roof of SDPI, sitting underneath a large satellite, as pictured below…

Overall, It has been rewarding to be meeting with sincere development practitioners, such brilliant people, and the conversations and interviews have been incredible. I hope more progress continues.

On another note, I am finding having business cards is useful in many ways: For official networking, to break the ice in the beginning of the meetings, to remember your contacts and have their information available at hand (if not recorded electronically – especially if you don’t have your computer with you or even internet access while you are moving around), and many more. I am more of a visual person too, so I much prefer a hard copy of a business card, it can help you keep track of the many people you will meet during fieldwork.

{Today someone also told me, upon seeing my business card that there is an “a” missing in my last name. We spell our last name “Khwaja.” Often, it has been mistakenly spelled as “Khawaja.” But Khawaja happens to be the more common spelling so that is probably why that is questioned at times. I have found this a little frustrating in the past, but have grown to be more tolerant of it, and find it amusing when the spelling is insisted, even when formal documents have been shared that have a clear spelling without the “a.” My ID card for my current residence is one example. The spelling includes the “a.”}

Moreover, it seems that I could even develop a network analysis of my interview informants, based on the snowballing technique, perhaps it will help show the collaborations and how people know each other. That itself would be an interesting study.

Today one of my informants asked me why I have chosen to study Pakistan in general. I believe one of my earlier interviewees the first week may have asked me this question as well in a different as well.  I really appreciated this question. In particular today, there was no connection that the informant made with my identity and where my ancestry is from. And I did not make note of that either. My answer was just about how fascinating I find this country, and all the complexities and challenges that come with it in the region. Of course this country is very close to my heart due to that ancestral connection, so the personal journey will always accompany the professional and I don’t think it is necessary for me to separate that…

 

 

 

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