Workshop: ‘Methodologies under Duress’ – report, 31 March – 4 April 2014

Buea, Cameroon, 31 March – 4 April 2014

At the beginning of April 2014, the members of the CTD project met with external collaborators and supervisors from the countries in the CTD project regions. The meeting took the form of a workshop titled ‘Methodologies under Duress’ and was held in Buea, Cameroon, at the Langaa Institute. This report describes the main activities and conclusions of the workshop.  For the detailed programme, click here

The goals of this closed CTD workshop were multiple:

(I)     Consolidation of the ties between team members and their supervisors

Before coming to Buea conference, visitors were paired up with specific CTD team members, who in their turn Participants arrive at Langaahad to send a paper to their respective ‘partner’. The reason behind this was that the visitor then had to introduce (and comment on) the read research to the rest of the group during the first day of the workshop. This allowed all participants to get a better idea of the research content and contexts of each and every one.

The pairs were the following: Adamou Amadou & Godwin Nyingchia, Boukary Sangaré & Djimet Seli, Catherina Wilson & Emmanuel Ngang, Eefje Gilbert & Khalil Alio, Inge Butter & Oka Obono, Inge Ligtvoet & Kathrin Heitz-Tokpa, Lotte Pelckmans & Tangie Fonchingong, Souleymane Abdoulaye Adoum & Walter Nkwi, Film project and Fanyuy Rukuyatu.

(II)    A personal exchange between the external collaborators of the CTD project

This exchange was stimulated by the various outings, e.g.; visiting the Buea archives, the port of Limbé, having evening dinners, etc.

In a more formal setting, the senior representatives of the different institutes present in the CTD countries shared a session on the possibilities and ideas for future collaboration. The prospects for future collaboration between these institutions and the CTD project will be communicated through our website.

(III)   A state-of-the-art CTD discussion on methodology (senses, visual, digital)

Inge Ligtvoet opened the third day of the workshop by presenting the methods we have been using and discussing since the beginning of the project (see powerpoint and written paper).

Prof. Oka Obono commented on this presentation by inviting the participants to elaborate on methodological choices. He stressed the importance of methodology with regards to the final result of our scientific endeavor, as it is through methodology that our work will be judged. The validity of our results will be determined by the strength of it. If the methodology is not well substantiated, then trust in our thesis is broken, and it will be discredited by our peers. Prof. Obono emphasized two important issues with regards to methodology: 1. the difference between method and methodology, and 2.  the objective in the subjective.

Regarding the former, the method is a technique, a particular way of doing things. Methodology, on the other hand, refers to the logic underlying the choice, i.e. the logical persuasion for employing a particular method. METHODOLOGY = METHOD + LOGIC. The method we choose, moreover, reflects our comprehension of the inner working of a problem. It is dynamic and informed by technology and thus needs to be adjusted as we go along.

In relation to the second issue, the objective in the subjective, Prof. Obono underlined the importance of a systematic and transparent investigation. Science is not WHAT we study, but HOW we study it.

Data does not speak for itself, only after data is analysed and interpreted does it become information. The importance of triangulation fits under this discussion. The social reality that involves human actors is so complex that we cannot capture it by using just one technique, hence we need to combine: maps, observation, emotion, travel, … These methods (linking it again with the discussion on methodology) need to be grounded and justified in order to convince the scientific community of the validity of our data.

In conclusion, Prof. Obono encourages us to provide a justification for methodology, because it reflects on the ontology of our study. He also encourages us to use new techniques that reflect the new fluidities: visuals for insiders , travelling for grasping space rather than location. Old landscapes assume certain fixities that are no longer existing. Finally, we should not forget the element of transparency in order to inform the (scientific) community about the customary ethically issues relating to the results of our research.

The workshop participants then explored the CTD methods of senses, visuals, and digitalisation. For a report of this element of the workshop, click here.

(IV)    Discussion on the concept of Trust

We invited Dr. des. Kathrin Heitz-Tokpa to talk about her experience in the fields of conflict studies and trust. The reason was that issues of trust/dis-/mistrust are central in our research region and it is imperative to understand the relationality of these important processes and concepts in situations of duress.

WBR foto 6Kathrin Heitz-Tokpa did research in northwest Côte d’Ivoire during the ‘occupation’ of the rebels. She was confronted with a society that did not follow its habitual path. Instead, new social relations had to be made and old relations were transformed. Trust became the glue that held society together, whilst distrust tore it asunder. Between the two oppositional categories, there was mistrust. Trust/distrust/mistrust are all about relations and relationality. Trust did not only ‘work’ between the inhabitants of the region, but was also used as a ‘tool’ to reign by the rebels. The basic trust level of the population facilitated their ‘rule’, it brought a situation of relative calm and sense of normality back to the region. A certain form of trust on different levels was (re-)installed.

Trust/distrust is a process containing emotions. It is not always sensible and never fully predictable, both conscious and unconscious. It is very much related to situations of duress, or probably uncertainty and in situations of duress the quality of trust may change. How is trust/mis-/distrust related to knowledge, to information? One interesting remark here was that in certain situations, the more one knows the more difficult trusting becomes.

These were some of the ideas that were discussed by Kathrin Heitz-Tokpa. The discussion about the concepts showed clearly that the relation between connectivity, duress and trust needs further exploration. ‘Is the lack of trust the same as fear?’, was another query. A few participants admitted that they lived the situations as sketched by Kathrin: ‘Nous vivons cela’. Probably we have to investigate on whether high levels of trust in a society are able to overcome/ mitigate dangerous situations related to conflict.

(V)     Discussing and refining the concept of Duress

The final discussion was around the notion of duress, which stems from the discipline of jurisprudence. Oka suggests we really need to define the concept much tighter first.

The idea is to transplant the concept to conflict contexts from the main (legal) literature and the implications of the chosen conceptualization for methodology. A question asked is whether or not duress is the opposite of connectivity? See also future article in which Mirjam De Bruijn & Lotte Pelckmans define the concept and will be inserting comments from our discussions.

In conclusion, this workshop was an ideal venue for an intensive week of socializing, analyzing and exchange. The next workshop will focus on writing and will most likely be held in Chad (December 2014).

Workshop participants numbers

1. Oka Obono
2. Ernest
3. Kathrin Heitz-Tokpa
4. Eefje Gilbert
5. Nyingchia Godwin
6. Djimet Seli
7. Adamou Amadou
8. Catherina Wilson
9. Fanyuy Rukuyatu
10. Sjoerd Sijsma
11. Tangie Fonchingong
12. Paul Elive
13. Mirjam de Bruijn
14. Inge Ligtvoet
15. Khalil Alio
16. Inge Butter
17. Lotte Pelckmans
18. Boukary Sangare
19. Pangmashi Yenkong
20. Emmanuel Ngang
21. Abdoulaye Souleymane
22. Walter Nkwi

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