You and the Spy: Knowledge Production and Research in Revolutionary Times
Dr. Sarah Wessel (Arab German Young Academy & Egyptian Museum/Papyrus Collection, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)
|Date||Thursday, 23 May 2019, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm|
|Location||Leipzig University | Hörsaalgebäude | Universitätsstraße 3 | 04109 Leipzig | Hörsaal 5|
|Contact||Dr. Sarah Ruth Sippel (SFB 1199, U Leipzig) | firstname.lastname@example.org|
Dominant academic representations of the Arab region, as exceptional in its democratization efforts in comparison to the rest of the world, have an impact on political practice, thereby ultimately supporting the continuous reproduction of authoritarianism. This is a critique that has been raised by scholars within the small field of Critical Middle Eastern Studies and Postcolonial Studies for a few decades. Even though the diverse uprisings in various Arab countries 2010/11 have caused a “theoretical soul searching” as the political scientists Pace and Cavatorta stated in 2012, when the “exceptionalism thesis” was critically debated amongst the scholars that had actually contributed to it, this critique was raised again.
Based on six years of field work experience in the revolutionary context of Egypt, the presentation discusses four bundles of questions regarding the conduct of research and how (academic) agenda-setting and political developments potentially interrelate:
1) How does the local political context affect you as a researcher – or as whatever you are perceived, maybe as a spy or an agent?
2) How can you do responsible research considering shifting political processes? Can methods be political?
3) What is the role of research in times of rapid political change and violence? How to write about political events? And for whom should I actually write when I do research in another country? Is it possible not to be political?
4) What effects can political events have on funding structures, research, and – after all – the ways how research is presented?
The presentation has two aims: First, to provide ideas on how the influence of politics, gender, nationality, time, and space on the creation of data can be used as productive means to enrich analysis. Second, by providing examples on the various roles of the researcher as determined by the shifting broader political context and the specific interview situations, it draws attention to the ethics of doing research in a violent context.
Dr. Sarah Wessel (Egyptian Museum/Papyrus Collection, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin & Arab German Young Academy)
Sarah Wessel is a cultural anthropologist and political scientist with focus on the Arab region. Currently she is a researcher at the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and the Arab German Young Academy (AGYA), curating an exhibition on Arab-German Storytelling Traditions on the Museum Island Berlin. She is also Associate Fellow at the Center for Applied Research with the Orient (CARPO) in Bonn. In 2018, she finished her PhD with the title The Making of Political Representation: Processes of Claim-Making and Receiving During the Egyptian Transformations (2011-2014) at the University of Hamburg, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences. Her research explores the political and cultural transformations in the Arab region following the popular mass uprising in 2010/11 with a particular focus on Egypt. Sarah studied Economics at the University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt as well as Cultural Anthropology, Political Science and Arabic at the University of Münster and Cairo. After completing her studies, she worked as a Project Manager of the funding program German-Arab Transformation Partnership at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Cairo (2012-2013). From 2013 to 2015 she was Researcher at the Orient Institut Beirut (OIB) and represented the OIB in Cairo. In addition, she worked as an academic trainer for scientific writing and research methods at the Cairo Academy of the DAAD (2013-2015). Her research topics are the relations between Europe and the Arab region with particular focus on Germany and Egypt, political representation, dynamics of legitimation, political anthropology, economic anthropology, gender diversity and poverty.