Conducting Qualitative Research in Pakistan: Lessons from the Field

Last month, I shared this article on Medium:

Conducting Qualitative Research in Pakistan (as an American-Born Pakistani): 25 Lessons and Observations from the Field

This is a piece I began writing in Islamabad, the first week of my second field assessment for my doctoral studies in Pakistan, (in October 2018.) I had been sitting with it for the past 3-4 years.

I knew at that time that this would have been the kind of piece that I would have loved to read prior to my fieldwork, so I wrote it.

I discuss various elements of the nuts and bolts of the Fieldwork and some key lessons and challenges that emerged during that time. Some may not be as relevant given today’s crises, as I make that caveat, but it might still be helpful in translating to other contexts…

Some of the topics I explore (and will expand in future pieces) include safety & security protocols, transportation and housing, navigating diverse geographic contexts, traveling as a female researcher, pilot assessment, transcribing & documentation, socio-cultural issues, connections & access, & romanticizing the local…among other things.

I will say that it comes from the perspective of an American-born Pakistani. I talk briefly about how Identity and positionality can impact findings, access, and travels around the country. It is why I had to add that on the title of the post.

It isn’t perfect, but at 80% I felt it was best to self-publish it as my first piece on Medium, and consider expanding some observations in future pieces. Many of my colleagues and friends perhaps know Pakistan much better than me, and I could never claim to be an expert, but my relationship to Pakistan both personally and professionally is also something special that I will continue to honor.

I recognize with the current crises unfolding and the Pandemic that changed the landscape for international development and qualitative fieldwork in similar ways, that many of my observations may not be fully relevant (as my fieldwork took place between 2017-2019), but for what it may be worth, I still felt inclined to share this piece of what I felt to be a sincere and noble quest to understand my Parent’s homeland and through this subject area. I appreciate and welcome any feedback and constructive criticism.

Thank you to anyone who reads it, and happy to clarify or discuss it with anyone interested in fieldwork in Pakistan, or qualitative fieldwork in general.

I just want to add that I remain truly grateful and blessed to the many people who welcomed me and gave me the time to engage and to listen to their stories during my Fieldwork in Pakistan.

And I’m still listening.


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