IDD Guest seminar podcast: Research and risk-aversion in conflict-affected societies

Speaker: Dr Suda Perera, Developmental Leadership Program

This seminar discusses the political and physical constraints affecting research within conflict-affected environments, and the growing trend towards remotely gathered data, through an autoethnography of research on armed group dynamics in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 

Reflecting on my experiences of conducting fieldwork in the eastern Congolese provinces of North and South Kivu, as well as my efforts to collect data remotely via a crowdsourcing platform in 2014, I discuss how modern research practices and technologies are shaping new epistemologies and ontologies of conflict. While space exists within particular research methodologies for critical reflection, little research has been conducted into how different methods produce different narratives and analyses of the same subject.

Through an analysis of my attempts to use a mixed-methods approach to an analysis of armed groups in the eastern DRC, I critically addresses three trends in research in conflict-affected societies, and its implications for the nature of the research produced: First, the increasingly risk-averse nature of academics and practitioners working in conflict zones, and the concomitant constraints this places on collecting and analysing data from the field. Secondly, the growing reliance on large-N, remotely gathered data, and the optimism about the potential power of new technologies in collecting this data. Finally, the impetus for the research to have a policy impact, which requires researchers to present messy results in neat and simplified ways.

The International Development Department hosts a number of seminars throughout the year which focuses on a number of different topics. The seminars are open to everyone. View the full list of IDD Guest Seminar Series 2014/15.