Workshop: ‘Connecting in Times of Duress: A workshop on moving from data to concepts’, 23-25 March 2015

23 – 25 March 2015, Texel, the Netherlands

By Inge B (with input from Boukary and Jonna)


Participants CTD team: Prof. Mirjam de Bruijn, Jonna Both (post-doc), Sjoerd Sijsma (filmmaker)

Inge Ligtvoet, Adamou Amadou, Boukary Sangare, Catherina Wilson, Souleymane Abdoulaye, Inge Butter (PhDs)

Invited guests: Prof. Eghosa Osaghae (Igbinedion University), Dr. Andrea Behrends (University of Halle-Wittenburg)


Aim and format of the workshop

The aim of this workshop was to support participants in moving from empirical data to theory building. The participants were encouraged to reflect on which theories and concepts would be relevant for the analysis of their empirical data. In the course of the workshop, participants worked together to formulate his/her own position vis-a-vis the chosen theories and concepts. For the first days of the workshop we had invited two guests, Prof. Eghosa Osaghae and Dr. Andrea Behrends. Both were asked to share their interpretations and knowledge of certain theories/concepts with the CTD team. Prof. Osaghae spoke on the relationship between duress, connecting and power while Dr. Behrends had been asked to share her insights on connections as resource in times of duress. The rest of the week was spent working together to (re)formulate which concepts could help each participant ‘tell their story’ on a more abstract level. Here distinctions were made between descriptive, analytic and emic concepts while also focusing on the theoretical angle from which the analysis would be made. The end result was an actual concept map for each participant and one for the CTD project as a whole. The maps are meant as an aid to continue the thinking on underlying theories vis-a-vis our research [See Figure 1]. NB: Each of the students finds him/herself at a different phase of the PhD-process, this is reflected in the conceptual maps .


Workshop reflections

Although an emic approach seems to be central in all our research projects— each project deals with sometimes very different (emic) aspects of a society. Thinking in concepts and how they relate to each other, is one aspect of developing theoretical models for the understanding of our various fields, and for the making of comparisons between our projects.

Adamou, for example, problematizes the concept of refugees and the experienced context of conflict (duress/bonnee/sugula) through discourse analysis in relation to the Mbororo’s flight into Cameroon from the Central African Republic. Catherina, in turn, also deals with the ambiguity of such concepts as refugee, IDP, repatriate in the context of Central Africans moving across the borders of CAR and Congo DRC. For Catherina and Adamou, refuge/refugee seems to be more of a local concept, one which is highly political and politicised— perhaps forming part of an economic strategy. In Jonna’s case it seems that the grammar hasn’t changed so much as the context has— young men in Yumbe (Uganda) are seen holding on to things known from the past, constructing a continuity in their existence in order to deal with current changes and challenges in society. In a sense, that which one might think is continuity might actually also be (a reaction to) change. Inge B looks at her field of research through a mobility lens, analysing the inter-regional movements of Chadian semi-sedentary nomads with the help of connectivity-thinking. Through focusing on connectors and negotiations, she looks at the internalisation of the ferikh in individuals, while at the same time arguing for the embeddedness of the ferikh in the wider region. Boukary’s research in Mali focuses on governance, crisis, security, radicalisation and the idea of push and pull factors. Decision making and crisis, combined with connectivity seem to form part of his middle-level analysis. For Souleymane, violence and communication inform the theory of connectivity he uses to analyse his data on ex-combattants in Chad and CAR. His research looks at how the history of communication and violence form the life of rebels and soldiers, while at the same time, rebels and soldiers actions inform a history of communication and violence. Power and communication, duress and a history of crisis, navigation and decision making all form an ecology of communication. For Inge L, connectivity and duress as theories, form an entrance point to understanding Nigerian society. In her case, it seems that expectations cut across duress and connectivity, all informing each other.


Figure 1: Individual (pre-liminary) concept maps; the colours distinguish between theory, analytic concepts, descriptive concepts and local/emic concepts. The maps were co-created.


Thoughts for the future

Working as a group on specific themes and regions is enlightening. During the workshop we have, together, come to a better conceptualisation of duress and what it means in the Central African Region. The discussion is not finished but has made important progress. With every meeting we continue to find fascinating points of overlap between our various fields of research (in terms of: methodologies, themes, subjects, regional dynamics and analytical approaches). At the same time we face challenges on these exact same points— points of overlap mean that both similarities and differences surface. The Texel Workshop embodied this once again, this time on the level of conceptualisation. As a political scientist, Prof. Osaghae spoke from a certain angle and using a specific grammar. His notions of the State are less empirically-constructed as some anthropological models of the State, yet do form a point of departure for thinking about what ‘we’ (the CTD team) mean by/how we define the State in our own work. This a line of thought we would like to pursue in our next Masterclass/Seminar session which will be held in July 2015 and for which we have invited Jacky Bouju and Sylvie Ayimpam (both from University d’Aix-en-Provence). In the next phase, while some PhD’s finish and others commence the writing of their dissertations, we will work on building a theory of connectivity and further develop the concepts of duress and decision making. In relation to the thinking on connectivity, we plan to organise a one-day CTD Seminar. The seminar will be connected to a Masterclass to be held by our post-summer guest, Dr. Ayobami Ojebode (University of Ibadan).


For an overview of upcoming CTD Events in 2015 please visit our website.

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