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.

2016 Summer Research Reports

Avner Golov

My PhD dissertation's objective is to shed some light upon the protégé's (small power in the alliance) cost-benefit calculus and deterrence policy in extended deterrence interaction – when a country extends its power to protect an ally (the protégé) against a potential threat. To this end I wish to analyze four cases that can be divided into two dyads: two crises between a Russian attacker, German protector and an Austrian protégé (in 1878 before the Congress of Berlin, and the in 1914 before World War I); the second dyad contains an American protector, Israeli protégé and two different attackers (a Syrian attacker in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and an Iraqi attacker in the Gulf Crisis of 1990-1991).

During the summer of 2016 (June-August) my research encompassed the two Austrian cases. To comprehend the view of the Protégé, namely Austria-Hungary, I worked with a German-speaking research assistant. Together we mapped the information available on the two cases in German and compared it to what was available in English. After inquiring I was able to use information that was not available in the English literature to strengthen my historical analysis and make it more robust.

Moreover, by using a German-speaking assistant I was able to learn the Austrian narrative in the two historical crises. In both cases the view from Vienna was significantly different than the common notion in IR offered by scholars who mainly relied on German literature and view. This enabled me to highlight the differences between the view of the protector (Germany) and the view of the protégé, and test how this disparity can account for the Protege's behavior.

Altogether, using the research fund strengthened my research, particularly its historical contribution in explaining the Austrian behavior in two key crises, and theoretical contribution to IR theory in explaining the dynamics endangered by extended deterrence.

Ben Naimark-Rowse

I used this summer’s grant funding to participate in the Oslo Freedom Forum in Oslo, Norway. As I noted in my grant application, the primary obstacle to this research is obtaining access to primary source documents including copies of correspondence and copies of contemporaneous diaries or notes by the participants about their correspondence. During my stay in Oslo I made first contact with a number of key leaders of nonviolent movements that I may include in my dissertation. If I wasn’t at the Freedom Forum I would have had a very difficult time meeting them. I interviewed them and started to build a relationship so I’d call the trip a big success!

Those leaders include three individuals who I had hoped to meet and who I mentioned in my funding application - Abdalaziz Alhamza from the failed Syrian nonviolent resistance to Bashar al-Assad; and Rosa María Payá and Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado, two prominent leaders of Cuba’s partially successful nonviolent opposition to the Castro Regime. I was able to speak with them in some depth and have kept in touch with them since Oslo. I met many other useful contacts but a selected list of individuals that I met and interviewed include - Orlando Luis Pardolazo (Cuba), Meron Estefanos (Eritrea), Maryan and Sahar Ajami (Iran), and Roya Mahboob (Afghanistan). I had a chance to catch up with Srdja Popovic (Serbia), which was very helpful. And I had extensive conversations with John Fox who has experience supporting nonviolent movements from abroad. I also had the opportunity to meet and speak substantively with editors of two major publications – Ben Pauker, Executive Editor of Foreign Policy magazine and David Rowan, Editor of WIRED magazine. I’ve followed up with them and plan to keep in touch. Both of them said they would welcome me to pitch them on articles that I write as part of my doctoral studies.

2015 Summer Research Reports

Barbara Ramos

As stated in the application for the Fletcher PhD Summer Research Fund, resources were sought to support the collection of complementary data for the case studies of my dissertation. Data was to be collected in the U.S. (Washington, D.C.) and Brazil (Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte).  As planned, I undertook a trip to Washington, D.C. from August 01-07, 2015, during which I met with specialists working on similar models as the one I have developed in the theoretical chapters of my dissertation to get their feedback and views on the model’s structure / applicability. In addition, the trip was instrumental in obtaining authorization to utilize data collected by international organizations based in the D.C. Given the topic of my dissertation – large transport infrastructure projects – an individual researcher would be unable to collect all necessary data for model applications – projects take anywhere from 2-5 years, and the funds required to collect baseline and endline panel data are extremely high. Therefore, it was necessary to partner with large organizations that had such proprietary (ex-post) data – in the case of my dataset, data belongs to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), contact their researchers to understand how the data was collected, format datasets according to the needs of my research, and secure authorization to utilize the data, as it is not public. All of this was accomplished during this particular trip, and, as a result, two major datasets were obtained and formatted to be utilized in my research.

Chris Williams

With the $1,500 summer research grant provided to me by the Fletcher PhD Summer research fund I was able to move forward with the collection of primary sources for my dissertation.  In particular, the summer funding allowed me to travel to Cape Town, Alice and Pretoria from my base in Johannesburg in order to conduct archival research and interviews with former policy makers.

In late September I travelled to Cape Town to perform two research interviews.  First, I interviewed Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who served as Minister of Home Affairs in the Mandela Administration.  Second, I interviewed Derek Auret, formerly a senior official in South Africa’s Department of Foreign Affairs.  Both these research interviews provided valuable insight and new leads to follow for my dissertation research. 

In late August, I travelled to Alice in the Eastern Cape with another Fletcher PhD Student, Ben Naimark-Rowse, to conduct archival research at the ANC archives located at Fort Hare University.  This was a very profitable trip as we both discovered a number of letters, reports, etc. that will be very helpful to our research.

Throughout the period of the research grant I travelled a total of fourteen times to the city of Pretoria (a seventy-mile roundtrip drive from Johannesburg) to conduct research at the Foreign Affairs and National Archives located there.  These trips were also very helpful in uncovering the primary documents that are so vital to my research. 

2014 Summer Research Reports

Laura Kuhl

During this trip to Honduras, my primary objective was to conduct interviews with all of the key stakeholders in the agricultural sector and/or involved in adaptation work in the country, including government officials, donors, NGOs, and academics.

The majority of my research was conducted in the capital of Tegucigalpa, although some interviews were conducted at the regional level.   I conducted 75 interviews with government representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Technical Unit for Food Security and Nutrition, the Commission on Natural Disasters and Contingencies, the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Institute for the Conservation of Forests.  I met with donor representatives from USAID, the EU, JICA, Switzerland, Canada and GIZ.  I also met with multilateral donors including the World Bank, FAO, the Inter-American Development Bank, World Food Program and UNDP.  I met with international NGOs including CARE, Oxfam and CRS as well as numerous local NGOs and foundations.

My interviews focused on the role of technology and innovation in agricultural adaptation in the national context.  I sought to understand what different actors are currently doing, what their plans are, and what they saw as both the opportunities and barriers for integrating adaptation into the agricultural sector.  I focused on what role they saw technology and innovation playing in their projects/programs/initiatives.

I was also able to meet with both USAID and the implementing partner to go through my analysis of Feed the Future from last year.  They had a few minor comments that I will plan on correcting, but overall, very good feedback.  We also discussed a plan to combine my qualitative data with their quantitative data (which we had discussed previously) and they are planning on sending me this years' updates as soon as they finish in December.

In addition to conducting interviews and receiving feedback on my analysis from fieldwork conducted last year, I was also invited to participate in a week-long workshop for USAID Feed the Future Latin America region on Climate-Smart Agriculture and best practices.  I had the opportunity to present some of my initial findings to USAID staff and implementing partners from the region as well as climate change staff from Washington and contributed to the working groups on best practices.  The workshop used the Honduran Feed the Future project as the basis for the discussion.  As this is my case study for my dissertation, it was a fabulous opportunity to engage with a range of practitioners on my dissertation topic directly for a full week.

Jean-Louis Romanet

During this past summer I intended to go to Libya to conduct interviews of key informants for my research on civil society, namely civil society activists and journalists. Unfortunately intense fighting in Tripoli and in Benghazi, the closure of the airports and very long delays for the delivery of my visa prevented me from going.

Given the intense fighting in the city, the vast majority of prominent activists and journalists had to flee Tripoli. They largely relocated in Tunis before deciding where to go next. Therefore I changed my travel destination to Tunis instead of Tripoli.

In Tunis I had the opportunity to meet them there and to conduct the interviews I had hoped for. Activists and journalists were very eager to meet and talk about Libya.

These interviews are very important to provide a qualitative complement to the large quantitative data I have collected last year.

The summer funding I was awarded allowed me to cover most of the expenses for the Libya visa procedures (which I continued to pursue since May in the hope that the situation would allow me to go); the travel and transportation expenses (I traveled by ferry, bringing down my motorcycle to use for local transportation) and the lodging expenses in Tunis (La Marsa).

2013 Summer Research Reports

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.