«Scientists minimise their stressful experiences»
“I’m a team member on a project analysing how gender influences and co-constitutes the processes of violence, conflict management and peacebuilding in several regions of Indonesia and Nigeria. Gender representations, and in particular social expectations related to masculinity, have a profound impact on individual, collective and institutional responses.
Picture: Valérie Chêtelat
There are many risks associated with this type of research. A colleague was involved in an armed carjacking in Nigeria, where her laptop was stolen and much of her research data was consequently lost. In Indonesia, members of an armed group demanded to be interviewed; the outcome of the confrontation was fortunately peaceful. Last year, the re-emergence of community violence in Plateau State in central Nigeria led to roadblocks and curfews, which meant we could not film a documentary on our research as planned. There are also dangers that cannot be anticipated. During a research trip to Indonesia in 2018, I had hoped for the chance to escape to the island of Lombok. What actually happened was an earthquake. I was lucky enough to get out unscathed, but I wondered if my research was really worth it. The answer remains yes.
In my opinion, we need a platform where scientists facing risks in the field might seek information on how best to prepare themselves. As a gender expert, I see research remaining very much influenced by the male model of excellence. It leaves little room for expressing emotions or vulnerability. When scientists return from the field having lived through tense situations, they tend to play down their stressful experiences, or use irony as a means of coping. This feeds a vicious circle of isolation and absent institutional support for scientists.”
Dr. Christelle Rigual,
Graduate Institute Geneva (IHEID), Maison de la paix, Rue Eugène-Rigot 2, Geneva, Switzerland.
r4d Project “The Gender Dimensions of Social Conflict, Armed Violence and Peacebuilding”
This text first appeared in the research magazine Horizons of the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, No. 121, June 2019.