SDC-51306 Fieldwork in Conflict and Post-conflict Settings


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper1
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. LA de Vries
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. LA de Vries
dr. PA Tamas
Examiner(s)dr. ir. LA de Vries
dr. PA Tamas

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

SDC-34806 Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction; SDC-21306 Methods, Techniques and Data Analysis for Field Research or equivalent, ENT-50303 Analysis and Prevention of Health Risks in the Tropics.

Continuation courses:

SDC-34306 Conflict, Development and Disaster.


Fieldwork in societies that are characterized by violence or conflict involves a number of methodological challenges of a practical and more philosophical nature. This course helps students prepare for these challenges by developing a responsible attitude towards the research project from its design through to the writing process. Processes of post-conflict reconstruction or transition are often marked by various forms of violence, contested authority, intense but often non-linear institutional, social and economic change, and a high density of external interventions that reverberate on the lives of people.
Students learn that field research involves juggling considerations of access, safety, analysis, and framing. The course prepares students to reflect on the conditions of collecting data and the subsequent construction of knowledge on and within contexts characterized by violence, crisis or conflict. Students are invited to apply constructivist perspectives on -predominantly qualitative- research methods and are expected to reflect on the implications of those methods for approaching violent and conflict-affected dynamics.

Key topics covered are:
- knowledge construction on, and within, violent or conflict-affected settings;
- gaining access and building trust;
- safety and security for the researcher and the research partners;
- researching narratives and sense making;
- research ethics.

The course is designed for masters level students who intend to do research in settings that can be considered 'difficult' for a variety of reasons, for instance because they are characterized by violence, crisis, and (post-)conflict transitions. It is recommended for MID-students, especially those specialising in Disaster Studies. The course is also open to students from other Master programs (e.g. MDR, MIL and MTO) and to Ph.D. students.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- assess the often inherent contradictions between access, partiality, safety and trust in highly polarised environments;
- design iterative strategies to identify and resolve ethical and security-related challenges regarding their own and others' positions when undertaking the field research;
- reflect on the limitations of their own and others' knowledge claims;
- appraise the varied interests of different research partners and stakeholders in research design, execution and reporting stages.


The course offers a combination of lectures, case-based discussions, and debates about the literature. The sessions have an interactive set-up, involving active student participation. The guest lectures offer hands-on research experience touching upon the themes discussed in the lectures. The course includes a few assignments and a final co-authored essay-assignment in which a master's level thesis in the domain of conflict studies is critically assessed with regards to methodology and knowledge construction.


The course is examined through a written exam (50%), the thesis-review assignment (40%), and active participation in the debates and on brightspace (10%).


Course literature consists of selected articles and book chapters.