Bringing Findings Back by Summer Lindsey, AC4 Graduate Student Fellow
People prefer to punish rape and stealing more severely, but wife-beating less severely in the wake of armed conflict. This is what I found from implementing a series of 80 focus groups with a local research organization two years ago in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. This summer, in 2018, I returned to work with the same colleagues to ask some of the same communities about their interpretation of the findings.
What immediately stood out was the unusually high levels of local engagement in our discussions. People were interested in hearing about a study to which they had contributed time and effort being surveyed. Members of the research team – so pivotal to implementing the study – were also enthusiastic to engage.
Scholars often want to give back to the people living in the places that they study (Lake and Cronin-Furman). Yet, most of us continue to ask a lot of questions, take people’s time, and give little back. Sometimes it is because we are busy; sometimes, we are apprehensive about local receptiveness; other times, we feel that it makes us look more like outsiders in the setting. In addition, there are often institutional and funding constraints.
I don’t study a comfortable subject and the receptiveness of local communities to hearing about this research and engaging even more suggests that there can be mutual benefits to bringing our findings back to communities and to the people we work with. From this experience, my hope is that funding organizations will continue to support studies that facilitate a dialogue where researchers and local populations can learn together.
Author: Summer Lindsey is doctoral candidate in the School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University with focus on political science. Her research focuses on questions about armed conflict and its effects on human security, particularly on violence against women. As a fellow, she travelled to South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, to learn about norms for punishing violence against women from community members in four rural villages.
All photos are taken and provided by the author and research teams at RISD.