Andrew Simon, a 2015 International Dissertation Research fellow, speaks with IDRF program assistant Ava McLaughlin about his recent book, Media of the Masses: Cassette Culture in Modern Egypt, and the role cassette…
From Our Fellows
The SSRC has been providing funding to researchers at all stages of their academic and professional careers for more than 90 years. Through a highly competitive and rigorous peer-review process, the SSRC has awarded over 15,000 fellowships and grants to support research around the globe. From Our Fellows focuses on emerging research in the social sciences, including intersections with the humanities and natural sciences, by recipients of SSRC funding. The SSRC’s fellowships, grants, and prizes improve conditions for social science knowledge production worldwide.
The authors reflect on how research on an environment already experiencing significant social and physical change was further impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic. In considering the potential impact of a "Blue Economy" policy scheme, the research team confronted the need to examine the power dynamics inherent in the research process, as well as those inherent to their analysis.
Based on their IDRF-supported research, Alex Wolff explores how many queer folk in South Korea face a conflict between achieving economic stability and a sense of selfhood. Following economic transformations that decreased employment opportunities for young adults, civil servant jobs have become valued for their “stability.” However, Wolff finds that queer South Koreans who choose “stable” jobs to achieve feelings of financial security, are paradoxically beset by “other feelings of insecurity,” as queer self-representation and political participation lead to workplace discrimination, and potential dismissal. Wolff proposes complicating the concept of precarity by looking at it through a queer lens—examining how structural exclusions and heteronormativity shape the conditions for economic security and insecurity.
As academic collaborations become increasingly virtual and geographically widespread, researchers are faced with novel challenges, as well as opportunities, as they attempt to create equitable, effective research partnerships. In this essay, the authors highlight the importance of shared reflexive conversations in building a strong foundation for collaboration and the coproduction of knowledge, particularly in the midst of ongoing crises. In so doing, they reflect on their experience of planning research on social innovation in small-scale fishing communities in Africa and Asia, as a team spread across six countries.
Shibaji Bose, Upasona Ghosh, Debojyoti Das describe the impact of the dual crises of Covid-19 and accelerating climatic change for Sundarbans residents, as well as their experience in shifting to participatory visual research methods to document the crises and residents’ responses, while respecting travel restrictions. The results put documentation in the hands of the affected community and offered a chance to tell their stories from a firsthand perspective. The researchers also reflect on how to make this type of work rigorous, while centering the questions and perspectives of the focus community.
Tuko Pamoja: Collaborative North-South Research, Temporality, and Togetherness in Zanzibar, Tanzaniaby Caitlyn Bolton, Mary Khatib and Issa Ziddy
Research collaborations bring together scholars with distinct positionalities, which at once enriches the research process and presents an array of power and social dynamics for team members to navigate. In this essay, Caitlyn Bolton, Mary Khatib, and Issa Ziddy provide an autoethnographic account of their joint field research in Zanzibar, reflecting on the idea of the “we” in knowledge production. The essay draws attention to previous challenges faced by team members in the Global South, the importance of time to developing solid connections between researchers, and the value of friendship as a methodology.
Invoking the concept of the "postnormal," Aarthi Sridhar, Annu Jalais, Rapti Siriwardane-de Zoysa, and Sridhar Anantha reflect on how collaborative research can help overcome the pandemic’s limitations. Centering democracy and equity, their Southern Collective developed a range of research projects to collect emerging cultural information about life in the Indian Ocean littoral. As they demonstrate, the building of “networks of solidarity” was central to accomplishing this work and may prove critical to successful research in a postnormal world.
Environmental disasters in recent decades have drawn scholarly attention to the need to move beyond traditional area studies boundaries in order to understand the wide-reaching impacts of events like tsunamis, cyclones, and, more broadly, climate change. This essay reflects on the efforts of one research team, led by Nathalie Peutz and Alden Young, to disrupt regional divides between East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and to study climate change across the littoral states of the Red Sea arena. As the authors highlight, successful collaboration across regions and in this time of multiple crises entails the constant negotiation of constraints and disruptions.
Ten years after the overthrow of authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak, Egypt faces economic downturn and continuing support for General Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi’s authoritarian regime. In this essay, Jessica Winegar explores how “the alluring aesthetics of authoritarian populism'' contributed to a departure from the revolution’s demands. Drawing upon her research in Egypt, she examines why Egyptians, exhausted by the upheaval of the uprisings, called for stability (istiqrar). Winegar argues that Sisi’s authoritarian rule based on “masculine, military, and middle-class aesthetics” cultivated his image as a strongman and savior, enticing everyday citizens yearning for dignity, respect, and stability.
Based on his research of Syrian musical cultures, Jonathan Shannon explores what it means to conduct methodological and ethical research in contexts of turmoil and displacement. In this essay, Shannon considers how the Arab uprisings and the Covid-19 pandemic have affected ethnographic fieldwork in Syria. Shannon argues that adapting to fieldwork during these global challenges has generated a new model of research. This model centers collaboration and coproduction, opening the door for “ethnographic entanglements” to create “new forms of knowledge.”