A Guide to Applied Field Research in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Ayman AbdulMajeed and Dr. Abaher Sakka

Evaluation of Experience and a Vision for the Future

The idea for developing this manual emerged from the accumulated field experiences of the survey unit at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) – Birzeit University, which exceeded 15 years in conducting both qualitative and quantitative surveys and field researches. The increase in the surveys conducted in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) since the mid-nineties, in which the CDS had a pioneering role, is a clear indicator for the need of such a manual. Especially when noting the content of many of the surveys conducted which dealt with the effects of Oslo Accord in terms of the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli occupa priorities highlighted. In other words, the disordered basis in the relation and the types of issues and tions between the occupier/colonizer and those occupied/colonized produced immediate issues to the national, class related, and ideological issues. In this colonial context, many Palestinian  institutions competed in issuing statistics as indicators for social and political issues, some of which reflect the essence of issues that the Palestinian people live through.  however many of these statistics are dispatched from reality and exercised arbitrary projections in terms of content, methodology, questions, issues and indicators. To add to this problem, the private sector started competing with academic institutions who produce significant data acting as local agents for opinion polls by implementing approaches, methodologies and ideologies that also ignore the occupied/colonized context.

The most dangerous aspect in this field is that active Palestinian institutions did not seek to present critical views through which they attempt to develop their methodologies and display the challenges they were confronted with in fieldwork under the existing occupation/colonization context. They were mostly in line with the prevailing research practices that ignore the colonial context as their main effort seemed to be on competing to obtain the funding. International funding played a major role in dealing with quantitative data (expressed in numbers) as a key aspect of its developmental policies and approaches. The World Bank had the upper hand in this methodology, as numbers not only conceal many of the existing power relations, but also seek to attribute them to the Palestinian society itself and in doing that completely neglecting the Israeli occupation and its effect on the Palestinian society.

This manual seeks to present a critical view of how out by including structural factors and hence a more complex understanding of field work should be carried realities especially the “occupation/colonization effect. This is done through  presenting several admonitions against being driven by theoretical concepts and frameworks that are incapable of understanding the colonization context. In addition, being cautious of not being driven by statistical data can be misleading at many times. Accordingly, the manual proposes a key saying: “field work must pursue interactive formulas that are based on partnership with the surveyed Palestinian society in order to establish a partnership that is capable of doing an analyses using a framework that considers the colonial reality and that allows the surveyed the principle opportunity to express and show their experiences. Methodologically, in this manual, we will introduce those field research tools based on the active and flexible participation.”

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Editorial Board - CDS Birzeit, Palestine

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