The messiness of fieldwork

In the last week I’ve been able to really start to get into my research.  No interviews yet (the first one is scheduled for tomorrow!), but I’ve been to several staff meetings, received contact information, and started to figure out how to deal with the bureaucracy that is the Israeli Ministry of Education (or any government office, in truth).

My discussions even just in this first week have illuminated to me the essential point that somehow fails to be stated in the safety of graduate school classes (and if stated, only briefly and as an aside): conducting social science research in the field is a totally different beast than planning social science research in the library.  Not that I didn’t know that, of course.  But this week has made the fact clear like nothing else, and has resulted in me having to think about different methodological approaches, recruitment measures, and on and on.

Of course, the difference between my head and reality on the ground has good points – it has led to new, different questions that I never would have considered had reality matched my plans.  For example, why does a bi-national organization committed to promoting bi-national partnership between Palestinians and Jews decide that its primary method of politicization should be uni-national? What does it even mean to promote binational partnership, rather than promoting coexistence/tolerance/peace?

All this and more in just a few days.  I’m looking forward to more confusion (and some interesting interviews!) in the days and weeks to come…


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