Beatriz Lopes Cerqueira, Master’s Student, Environmental Sciences – Environmental Policy at Wageningen University
For my MSc thesis research, I decided to travel to the home of one of my special interests, the Zapatista movement, which has been fighting with and for the dignity of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas, Mexico, and learn their particular views and practices towards Nature, natural resources and the preservation of the environment.
The relationship established between the Zapatistas and me followed what I believe to be the fundamental properties of emotional relations(hips) – those based on the mutual exchange of ideas and feelings, trust, and respect. For me, these kinds of connections require a careful management of our thoughts and feelings as emotional beings and the ways in which these are interchanged. Thus, for my research with the Zapatistas, I engaged in a long and complex process of analysing and evaluating the best way to create a relationship based on reciprocity and trust. Later on, I tried to apply these reflections in my own research process. Which methods and methodology would allow me to build trust with the Zapatistas, to conduct research without blindly extracting their knowledge? Which would be the best tools for telling the story of the Zapatistas’ ecological consciousness and the values, emotions and worldmaking processes that make up their cosmovision? For academic research, I believe that methodological choice(s) are the most important foundation for a steady and lasting relationship.
When I started to think about my fieldwork, I decided to do exploratory work in Oventik, one of the Zapatistas’ autonomous centres, in the highlands of Chiapas, before beginning.
Merissa Gavin, Master’s Student, International Development Studies at Wageningen University
My daily ‘commute‘ Beyond the methods and ethics of data collection, something we were taught in fieldwork preparation is that the field is full of surprises. Often you arrive to a reality much different to what your a priori desk research may lead you to expect.
I came to Huelva expecting to observe and participate with Jornaleras de Huelva en Lucha (JHL), a self-organised feminist and anti-racist group of day labourers in the strawberry industry. My intention, in the best-case scenario, was to live and work alongside the fruit harvesters. Failing this, I was willing to accept visiting where the workers lived, hanging out with them after work and joining unionist action organised by JHL. However, due to the delicacy of immigrant workers’ statuses and the protectionist front of employers, this avenue proved unviable. Employers commonly provide accommodation on site and they are reluctant to facilitate external interactions. In place of JHL, the entry point for my research has been Asociación Nueva Ciudadanía por la Interculturalidad (ASNUCI). ASUNCI is an association that offers its members hostel beds, internet connection and hygiene services, all of which are in high demand amongst workers not housed by their employers, but instead living in roadside settlements without electricity or water.
“I am afraid of the dog, but I like its owner” (Az in sag metarsam, lekin sohibashro naghz mebinam), the senior state official stated while staring at my Lada Niva parked by the road and inside, waiting for me to return, my dog Bim.[*] The official and I were standing at a crossroads, talking about land use issues. I had known him for years and tried to laugh off the statement, but it took me some time before I could pick up the conversation again. It was late in my fieldwork in Tajikistan, and his words, later caused me to reflect on one of the roles Bim had taken on during my fieldwork. She was my posbon, my guard.
Do you want to contribute to solving societal issues in the domain of food systems? Do you have a MSc degree in sociology, anthropology, development studies or related field with an interest in food systems? If yes, then we may be looking for you!