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. At present there are Fletcher Ph.D. students conducting research in China, Burundi, Belgium, Peru, Brazil, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Japan, and Libya as well as in California, Arizona 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 2012.


Irina Chindea (Recipient, 2012 Summer Research Grant)

The summer research funding provided courtesy of the PhD program at the Fletcher School allowed me to test empirically the hypotheses proposed in my doctoral dissertation, “Power and Underworld Alliances:Understanding Cooperation among Criminal Groups.” More specifically, from June to September 2012, I was able to conduct field research on the US-Mexico border area in the cities of San Diego, CA/Tijuana, Baja California; El Paso, TX/Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, and explore the relationship between the shifts in alliances among the major Mexican drug trafficking organizations and the levels of violence that plagued the cities of Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez under President Calderon’s administration (2006-2012). The summer research funds have also contributed to partially funding my field research conducted in gang-infested communities in the cities of Los Angeles, CA, and Montreal, Canada, to understand the operating mechanisms at play behind the cooperation agreements inner-city gangs enter with larger criminal organizations such as the Mexican Cartels, and the Italian Mafia.

By allowing me to perform interviews with intelligence and law enforcement officials as well as with former members of criminal organizations who would not have been accessible from the premises of Tufts University, this field research experience has significantly contributed to my deeper understanding of the underlying variables and circumstances that set into motion the formation and breakdown of alliances among criminal organizations.

Laura Kuhl (Recipient, 2012 Summer Research Grant)

"With generous support from the PhD Summer Research Fund, I conducted three pre-dissertation case studies this past summer. My research project examined barriers and opportunities for technology transfer in climate change adaptation projects. As part of a collaborative project with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), we examined technology transfer components of all of the projects in the GEF adaptation funds. Based on this analysis, we selected three projects for detailed case studies. My case studies were the “Coping with Drought and Climate Change” project in Ethiopia, managed by UNDP, the “Integrated National Adaptation Plan (INAP)” project in Colombia, managed by the World Bank and Conservation International, and the “Adaptation to the Impact of Rapid Glacier Retreat in the Tropical Andes Project (PRAA)” project in Peru, managed by the World Bank and CARE Peru. In total I conducted 56 interviews, as well as additional informal participant observation during field visits. I interviewed key stakeholders including project staff, government officials at both national and local levels, NGO partners, academic experts, community leaders, and project beneficiaries. Through my interviews, I sought to understand the role of technology and factors leading to successful diffusion and barriers from the perspective of all key stakeholders and users. This preliminary fieldwork provided a foundation to explore methodology and help refine my research questions. I am now in the process of expanding upon this research for my dissertation."

Elizabeth McClintock (Recipient, 2012 Summer Research Grant)

"The Fletcher Summer Research Funds allowed me to travel to Burundi for an initial one-month field visit in the Summer 2012 to begin to gather the data necessary to understand both the on-going negotiations between civilian and military leaders and the past decision-making processes that have resulted in the non-intervention of the military in Burundian politics to date.  The funds also allowed me to take a second trip at the end of December 2012 to conduct further interviews and continue my archival research at “Le Renouveau” newspaper and the national military academy.  Working through my network of professional contacts, I set up and conducted 20 semi-structured interviews, one focus group and three informal interviews during August 2012. My interviews targeted both military and civilian officials: high-level army officers (Lieutenant Colonels, Colonels and Generals), a former President and parliamentarian, a former Prime Minister, officials from Ministry of Defense and donor partners, and relevant civil society actors working in the domain of security sector reform and good governance.  I also started archival research at “Le Renouveau” newspaper and collected and reviewed books on Burundi from a private library – many of which I’ve been unsuccessful finding either in the US or France.  This research continued during my second trip, at which time I scheduled 30 additional interviews and gained access to the archives at the military academy.  I used the funds to cover housing, airfares, the cost of a research assistant, in-country transportation, photocopying and the acquisition of several documents such as copies of the parliamentary ‘bulletin’ and to contribute to the cost of a new computer and EndNote software."

Ivan Rasmussen (Recipient, 2012 Summer Research Grant)

"Over the summer of 2012, I spent three weeks in Beijing and approximately one week in Manila and Singapore conducting preliminary dissertation research. While my number of formal interviews was limited due to the fact that my research is in a nascent stage, I was able to renew many contacts and gain valuable insight on my dissertation proposal. During the period of time abroad, I spoke with many academics, over 12 Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, two mid-rank People’s Liberation Army officers, and a variety of on-the-ground contacts ranging from university students to journalists. My product from these meetings is a more thorough theoretical chapter and the initial work on one case study, both of which can be found on my personal website.

Beyond the formal dividends of research this summer, it was also an important time to be in China. Chinese nationalism during the late summer of 2012 was particularly strong, expressed through protest of issues concerning the South China Seas and the Diaoyu/Senkaku Island dispute with Japan. I would argue that with the imminent leadership change in China coupled with some forecasts that Chinese economic growth is slowing, the central government has sought to ‘rally the troops’ and increase domestic nationalism. At the same time, other regional actors such as Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan have pushed back on perceived Chinese aggressive positions.

Meeting with academics, I was able to expand my understanding of nationalism and China’s foreign relations, particularly regionally. Analysis of Chinese nationalism tends to fall into one of two categories: a grassroots phenomenon or one created by the central government. Similarly, there is limited nuance in the impact of nationalism as either a problem for China or a vital legitimizing agent for the Chinese Communist Party. Academics tend to fall into these categories, but by pushing back on their stances, I believe I have a more complicated perspective. Also, I was able to re-think my understanding of protest in China. Protest in China tends to be focused on local issues (e.g. corruption) with limited opportunity to challenge the central government—always with the ‘lessons’ of the Tian’anmen Square protests in mind. In contrast, nationalistic protest can be seen as a way for domestic audiences to put pressure on the central government as a demand for a harder line concerning foreign relations. In this way, nationalistic protest goes beyond historical grievances or territorial concerns to current domestic affairs as a way for the Chinese people to indirectly put pressure on the central government. This is especially pertinent during a period of tenuous leadership transition. The nuance of protest and nationalistic expressions in China deserves further inquiry and will be the crux of my dissertation. Finally, I would say that the research trip was vital in propelling my dissertation work forward. I am extremely grateful to the Fletcher PhD Summer Research Fund for the financial support."

Jean-Louis Romanet Perroux (Recipient, 2012 Summer Research Grant)

"My dissertation focuses on the role and impact of civil society on governance during the current democratic transition in Libya. It is crucial for my research to understand the context and to establish links with key actors.

The summer research funds allowed me to come to Libya and conduct an evaluation of the context and the challenges that civil society organizations face in Libya. Together with a team of three, I interviewed the members of a dozen civil society organizations to understand the structural and operating constraints that impair their ability to run their organization and to meet their objectives.

Moreover, beyond the qualitative research, I intend to run a large number of surveys in four cities in Libya in partnership with each city’s university. This summer, I was able to travel to Misrata and Benghazi in order to meet with faculty in both universities, present the research project and propose a partnership."