September 23, 2018 | ° F

Researchers discuss research on war-stricken Middle East, North African areas

Photo by Tianyun Lin |

Kira Jumet, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science, discusses her research in the Teleconference room of Alexander Library.

Coverage of the turmoil in Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Iraq is jarring, but because it is being transmitted through television screens and radio waves halfway across the world, it is easy to feel disconnected from the abject terror.

Closer to home, Kira Jumet, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science, talked at the “Upcoming Symposium: Researching the Middle East and North Africa after 2011: Challenges, Queries, and Questions” about instances of near-kidnapping and political violence in these areas when conducting about 170 interviews for her dissertation. 

After years of conflict in regions of the Middle East and North Africa, graduate researchers came together to query and challenge research regarding these war-stricken zones on Friday in the Teleconference room at Alexander Library on the College Avenue campus. 

The scholars said it is difficult to get the funding to study and research at early stages in these countries due to certain unique challenges.

Jumet discussed her dissertation, which examines mobilization during the 2011 Revolution and June 2013 uprising in Egypt. She believes courses on research methods do not prepare students to research in countries such as Egypt or Syria. 

“A lot of graduate students are not well prepared to go into the field of a restricted regime,” Jumet said. “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” 

It is important to protect the human subjects and the self, she said. 

She pointed out the Office of Research and Regulatory Affairs at Rutgers places great emphasis on keeping the research safe but not enough emphasis on the researcher’s safety. 

Based on her own experiences, she continued to explain how to keep research safe along with personal safety. 

She said protests are dangerous, but going to people’s homes or coffee shops is safe. It is also important to keep research well documented by keeping it on a USB flash drive or a computer. 

“We explain how the world works, and we need to be sensible about how much risk we are taking to get that data,” Jumet said. “My goal is for researchers to think about the risks of the type of field work [they are] conducting and assess what risks are worth taking.” 

Sally Bonet, a Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers’ Graduate School of Education, received a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship for her research on Iraqi refugees and their encounters with citizenship in the United States.

Bonet conducted several interviews with Iraqi families and refugees. She essentially became a member of one particular family for years, walking with them though welfare offices, institutions and hospital. 

As a researcher, Bonet’s goal was to understand the lives of the refugees in America through state encounters. 

After interviewing a 19-year-old female during her stay with the family, Bonet said the teenager was excluded from second-year education. She was forced to not attend school and to work 60 hours a week to support her family of four.  

“It is important to know how to engage in research as a human and not just a researcher,” Bonet said. 

She then opened the forum to open discussion, bringing up crucial and cognitive questions. 

Following Jumet and Bonet, Becky Schulthies, moderator of the discussion, added onto the conversation.

Schulthies, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, concluded the discussion by bringing attention to the notion of subjects along with the question of research involving morals, roles and ethics.

Many questions were brought to light, and many panelists continued the discussion on research in the Middle East and North Africa until the evening. 

“You cannot be a researcher and an observer if your role has shifted,” Schulthies said. “No one [person] is solely the researcher, but rather [everyone] involved and questioning constantly.” 

Nidhi Patel

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