Meetings with the extraordinary…

There have been some disappointments, but it is important to focus on the positives of this experience so far and just keep making progress. Though I do find it’s very difficult to keep the momentum and spirit up during my time here when some things don’t work out. It is especially challenging once you get used to some of the conditions here. It has been fun in some cases, and in some ways it has become taxing. Because fieldwork is a constant iterative process, where you it seems like finding people, contacting people, researching people, interviewing people, meeting people, and then taking notes, analyzing and transcribing the interviewing is a never-ending process. Even though some meetings were postponed or canceled, it remained a productive week. As indicative, you can always be doing something to stay occupied even when you are not interviewing anyone.

On Monday, I returned to the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (featured above) for a meeting with the Director. I met with him and at this headquarters last December during my exploratory fieldwork so it was nice to be back and meet him again. It was a very good meeting as I gained more insight on who I can connect with, how I can be resourceful to my connections here, and other elements of my fieldwork to consider. AIPS is a great resource in facilitating and supporting Pakistani Americans or American Scholars studying Pakistan in a variety of ways. He made an important suggestion about reciprocity in this society: sort of selling yourself and indicating how the connections with you can be mutually beneficial. One element of my research is to highlight the discrepancy between the knowledge in the “field” to the scholarship/Academic world, especially in the field of development. It seems to have been a theme in some of my meetings especially this week, about research-oriented programs that help bridge that crucial gap. I hope my research and future work could be dedicated to that.

The next day, I had the extraordinary opportunity to meet with Mr. Sartaj Aziz. It was really such an honor to meet him. He is retired, but a former National Security Advisor, former Minister of Finance, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and much much more. I’d say just google the guy. 🙂 The meeting was kindly facilitated by Mr. Syed Tanwir Hussain Bukhari, whom I had the pleasure to meet the week before at the Pakistan Secretariat. Mr. Sartaj has had a long extraordinary career of service to the Government of Pakistan and he provided a very positive picture of Pakistan’s achievements in the development, particularly in the agriculture sector. It was reassuring to also hear him talk about the success of the National Rural Support Program in Pakistan, being a former government official and someone who continues to advise the Government. I really enjoyed my meeting with him at his home and he was open to a photo as well!

The next day I had a meeting with the Executive Director of SDPI. It was a short meeting but I am glad I can include some of his insights to my research. It was nice to be back again at the SDPI, and I am looking forward to the Annual Sustainable development conference in the first week of December!

   

One thing I am learning is that there is certainly an etiquette in communicating about how you become connected to someone, among many other relevant things. It’s quite a delicate thing to handle, which makes the fieldwork even more challenging. I am also noticing, that depending on who connects you and how they connect you, it ultimately determines how well the interview goes, whether the individual feels comfortable with you and has trust in you. It’s quite fascinating. And I am looking forward to understanding this dynamic and continuing to develop the diplomacy necessary to ensure my informants can trust me. {Also, please note that I am sharing photos with those who were comfortable and open with their insights and I am not sharing photos or even taking photos with interviewees that have chosen to not reveal their identities in my research, being mindful of confidentiality, as well as not providing any detailed reference to comments they made in their interviews. Either way, I have learned that taking photos is a great part of the fieldwork, and also something that many Pakistani’s across the country do enjoy and are open with, regardless of the nature of the research interview.}

Now coming to about a month into the fieldwork, I have a grand total of 50-51 interviews, which is a great accomplishment since the exploratory fieldwork in December last year. About 19 have been completed the past month. I’ve been having meetings with true extra-ordinaries. And I am working for 50 more, but I will be happy with whatever I am able to achieve. Numbers don’t matter in the end. It’s about having quality (extraordinary) interviews, and I am lucky that is in fact happening. The nerves are still there. And energy is deteriorating, but I am trying not to lose my spirit by staying focused on the hypotheses and research question and the amazing feeling of being in Pakistan. Interviewing people in Islamabad is not entirely the same thing as interviewing people in DC, but it does feel like it sometimes. Either way, these interviews are crucial and are a great part of being in Pakistan, and I would not have had them if I was in DC! I am just hoping I’ll be able to make it out to some of the rural communities as well, to get a taste of the “Real Pakistan!”

 

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