Wrapping up the summer

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I was tying up some loose ends to my current empirical chapter during the summer. In this time I also went back to listen to some of the interviews I did last year in order to theorize more about the mechanisms that drive women’s political empowerment in the absence of their migrant husbands. In fact, during this time I was also feeling a bit out of touch with the field since I have not been able to talk to people face to face in a long time. We spend a great deal of time crunching numbers and writing up analyses but after a point actual interactions with respondents and those whose lives we are studying bring us back on track and reinvigorate us. I a grateful to these interviews. I went back to listen and re-listen to them. I listened to them as I walked to work and sometimes even while I was grocery shopping.

During this period, I also began preparing for fieldwork as things in India began to slowly open up. This involved setting up connections with local researchers in order to get their help to enter these communities. I was glad to be connected to Kailash ji – a mid mannered and soft spoken man from Araria, Bihar. He has experience in conducting surveys on various themes in Bihar and other parts of Northern India. He has now moved on to be a supervisor and is on the look out to start out on his own. I was delighted to be connected to him as his knowledge of the local community helped me navigate villages in Araria. With his help I hired a surveyor who was to accompany me on the ground. It was also exciting for me since this was my OWN project and I had to manage all the logistics related to it. Preparing for fieldwork might not yield tangible outputs but it teaches you a lot of skills like time management, planning, supervising and managing a team and so on. These are skills that come of use later on in life even if they are not directly visible in the academic outputs we produce.

I am grateful to have spent a last part of last year and this suer working on understanding the broader patterns related to women’s political empowerment in migrant sending communities. All this knowledge prepared Mme to have a targeted approach to my upcoming fieldwork stint. Therefore I spent some time devising questions under each module or theme that I was interested in. While preparing I felt like I knew what I was looking for (even if it was not that clear). I briefed the field team on the project and we discussed the main themes to pursue. I was specifically interested in understanding women’s access and interaction with the state, the extent of their ability, the role of household structures in explaining empowerment and finally women’s networks. Thus, with I prepared questions along these lines before I went on the field.

All in all, this summer involved preparing for the next big data collection exercise for my dissertation based on all the prior analysis conducted on secondary data.

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About Rithika Kumar