PhD Student Fieldwork

Throughout the year Fletcher Ph.D. students are engaged in fieldwork to support their dissertation research agenda.  Fieldwork takes place in many areas of the U.S. as well as in sites all over the world. In the past few years there have been Fletcher Ph.D. students conducting research in China, Ethiopia, Norway, Indonesia, Singapore, Afghanistan, S. Africa, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras Hong Kong, Niger, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Libya as well as in Texas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Students often take advantage of their summers to conduct research and the Ph.D. Program offers some summer research funding to students for this purpose.

Below are some brief reports from Ph.D. students who received Summer Research Funding Grants in recent years.

Rabia Zafar  (Recipient, 2013 Summer Research Grant - Pakistan)

The grant I received from the PhD Summer Research Fund allowed me to conduct fieldwork in support of my dissertation having to do with extremism in Pakistan. I made multiple trips to Lahore, Islamabad, and Peshawar, where I interviewed senior police officials, retired military officers, and academics. These interviews were useful not only for the data they yielded but because they helped me better frame my project. I now have a better understanding of which specific case studies I will conduct. I also have a clearer idea of the current gaps in scholarship, which I hope to help fill. Most importantly, my time in Pakistan forced me to reexamine my assumptions and ultimately identify a strong hypothesis.

The PhD Summer Funding I received was particularly important to me as I have a young child who I could not bring along with me to Pakistan. Instead, my family and I were based out of Dubai and I was able to travel back and forth to Pakistan as needed. Without the support of the PhD program this level of travel could have been cost-prohibitive and I might not have been able to conduct the fieldwork that is so crucial to my doctoral project.

Matt Herbert (Recipient, 2013 Summer Research Grant - Nicaragua)

From August 11 through September 17, 2013 I conducted pre-research for my dissertation in Managua. Nicaragua. The dissertation is focused on identifying the impact of cocaine trafficking on political and collective violence in Central America. Nicaragua was selected as a location to do pre-research, effectively testing out some of the questions, given its unique lack of high-intensity violence and gangs, despite a fairly vibrant through movement of cocaine. During the 5.5 weeks I spent in Nicaragua I conducted a number of interviews with researchers, former government officials, and international diplomats. In addition to providing direct information, the interviewees have proved to be invaluable in connecting me to others in the field who have information benefiting my dissertation.

Nicholas Kenney (Recipient, 2013 Summer Research Grant - Cyprus and London)

The summer has been extremely productive in terms of gathering primary research material in the form of documents and interviews. The archival resources exceeded expectations. Cyprus had an archive entirely devoted to the Enosis (Union) movement of the 1950’s and the guerrilla organization, EOKA, led by General Grivas and Archbishop Makarios. And I was grateful beyond words for its air-conditioning everyday as the sun strengthened in the morning. The interviews went well but they were of EOKA members that worked at the operational or tactical levels not the strategic and political level. And I learned that the key documents from the Greek Orthodox Church are still embargoed. This is one valuable lesson from the trip. Non-state political groups generally do not have a declassification or release procedure like states. The British and American governments, for example, declassify almost everything by a certain date after initial creation. In contrast, groups like EOKA, the Greek Church of Cyprus, the IRA, Sinn Fein, and the Indian National Congress can keep documents embargoed indefinitely. Nonetheless, this trip confirmed that all of these organizations kept extensive written records and many of those are available.

Ironically, London had more useful material on the strategic decision-making of EOKA than did Nicosia because of its wealth of captured documents. In fact, London’s archival resources are extraordinary. The National Archives at Kew Gardens were vast, meticulously cataloged, and welcoming. The procedures, the staff, and the whole facility are first-rate, making it easy for visiting scholars to find what they need and work away. Kew had captured documents on EOKA, the IRA, and Indian nationalist groups. In a quirk of archival politics, the British Library had all the India Office primary source material. The BL is another exceptionally well-run place. It was an absolute privilege to work in both these places. The long hours flew by and the thrill of discovering a key document never got old. 

Arian Sharifi (Recipient, 2013 Summer Research Grant - Afghanistan)

The funds enabled me to travel to Afghanistan, and conduct field research that will be used for my dissertation. While the fellowship funds did not cover all of my expenses (I used other sources and out of pocket funds, as well), they were an important part of my budget. Without the fellowship, I would not have been able to conduct this research in a productive manner. As a result of this brief field research, I now have a much clearer idea about how to proceed with my two-year field research in Afghanistan upon completion of my residency requirements at Fletcher.

Below is a rough schedule of what I did and how I used the funds.

  • I flew from Boston to Kabul, via Europe, on May 13, 2013, and returned on July 1, 2013. I used a major part of the fellowship funds to pay for my airfare to and from Kabul. 
  • In Kabul, I met with about two dozen individuals with expert knowledge of the subject matter I conduct research on. As is customary in Afghanistan, I brought small gifts when meeting these people at their homes or offices. I used part of the fellowship funds to pay for these expenses.
  • I used taxis for transportation throughout my time in Afghanistan, and used part of the fellowship funds to pay for this.
  • I used the fellowship funds to pay for part of my phone and internet expenses.
  • After my survey of two library archives of primary sources (jihadi publications from the 1980s and 1990s), I identified a large volume of material to study over the next several years. I then hired a research assistant to scan the material for me – over 50 books, and several thousand magazine pages. I used the fellowship funds to pay for part of the research assistant’s remuneration.  
  • I took a trip to northern Afghanistan to meet with a number of people, and explore a private collection of primary sources. Part of the trip’s expenses, which included airfare, transportation, food, etc., was covered by the fellowship funds.