Fieldwork as Failure. Living and Knowing in the Field of IR – a conversation w/ Katarina Kušić & Jakub Zahora
The guests of the first Opinion Peace podcast in 2021 are Dr. Katarina Kušić and Dr. Jakub Zahora, editors of the open-access volume “Fieldwork as Failure. Living and Knowing in the Field of International Relations”. Through thirteen chapters written by early-career researchers, the edited volume engages with fieldwork experiences and politics of methods in IR through the concept of failure. In their personal and analytical reflections, the editors and chapter contributors take the concept of failure from a personal and affective reaction towards epistemological, political, and structural points that the concept of failure reveals. They say failure can be productive. It can also present a resistance towards neoliberal hyper-productivity. Some failures, however, never turn into anything productive – and that is OK too. While they grapple with disappointments and feelings of failure that arise out of personal and structural expectations and images of ideal researchers, the authors of the chapters and the editors also acknowledge the joy of doing research through fieldwork and the value of community that they’ve built through vulnerability and intimacy in writing about fieldwork ‘failure’.
As uncomfortable and hard as it gets, still admitting the failure and exploring it as an academic project is also a privilege. As Katarina put it: “To think about failure we have to have come out the other end quite well.”
Dr. Katarina Kušić is an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University. Her research explores how those ‘being improved’ by development, state-building, and peacebuilding efforts experience these processes and what their experiences can tell us about international politics. She is particularly interested in fieldwork-based methods, conversations between studies of South East Europe and postcolonial and decolonial thought, and liberalism as politics of improvement.
- Kušić K (2020) Interpretation by proxy? Interpretive fieldwork with local associates in areas of restricted research access. In: Bliesemann de Guevara B and Bøås M (eds) Doing Fieldwork in Areas of International Intervention: A Guide to Research in Violent and Closed Contexts. Bristol: Bristol University Press.
- Kušić K, Lottholz P and Manolova P (eds) (2019) Decolonial Theory and Practice in Southeast Europe. Sofia: dVERSIA. Available open access here.
Katarina is on Twitter as @KatKusic
Dr. Jakub Zahora currently works as an analyst at the Czech Agency for Social Inclusion and is desperately applying for postdoctoral positions. His doctoral thesis investigated the depoliticisation of everyday life in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank through material and visual configurations, and his research interests cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, political ethnography, and critical approaches to security.
Jakub is on Twitter as @jakub_zahora
Text and edits: Dr. Sladjana Lazic