Arab Reform Initiative Podcast
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Series # 2
3ala el Maydan

Arab Reform Initiative Podcasts


  • Episode 1 - 
    Fieldwork: Between power relations and controversial methods

    In this episode, we will explore power relations in fieldwork, controversial methods of meeting the individuals you need to interview, and what is at stake when we talk about democratization in Tunisia.

    In December 2020, researchers Lana and Zied visited three different municipalities around Tunisia, to understand the problems local administrations encounter when managing solid waste. They will be speaking about how they managed to navigate challenges and adapt to ensuing fieldwork situations.

    Lana Salman is a Lebanese researcher in Urban Governance and International Development.

    Zied Boussen is a senior researcher at the Arab Reform Initiative in Tunisia.

  • Episode 2 - 
    Fieldwork: Building connections

    In this episode, we will be exploring how fieldwork can be places you never thought of as fieldwork, how they can resemble dreams and entries into the intimacy of informants, how you learn to navigate fieldwork in a country different from your own. For this purpose, we spoke to Zina Sawaf, an anthropologist and assistant professor of gender studies at the Lebanese American University in Beirut. Zina is part of the ethnography and knowledge working group, supported by the Arab Council for the Social Sciences.

  • Episode 3 - 
    Fieldwork: Navigating differences

    In this episode, we will be discussing how to enter fieldwork when you have read too much, how your own memories of authoritarianism can create connections and intimacy with those you interview, and how to navigate the different actors when researching a topic as sensitive as transitional justice. Selima Kebaili, a Tunisian sociology researcher with a background in gender studies, shares with us her experience and what it meant for her to do research on the gendered production of victimhood in transitional justice processes.

  • Episode 4 - 
    Fieldwork: Studying political mobilization from within

    In this episode of 3ala el Maydan, Malek Lakhal interviewed Youssef El Chazli, a political scientist and associate professor at Paris VIII University in Saint-Denis. He is part of the ERC-DREAM team, a research project on the archives of revolutions in the Arab Mediterranean. The team recently published a book called L’esprit de la révolte: archives et actualités des revolutions arabe, a catalogue of the last 10 years of Arab revolutions. His PhD thesis studied the reasons behind political mobilizations in Alexandria, Egypt during the 2011 revolution. His fieldwork, in both Cairo and Alexandria, led him to meet many Egyptian activists.

  • Episode 5 - 
    Fieldwork as everyday life

    Episode 5 addresses how fieldwork can be the researcher’s everyday life, and how she or he can deal with issues of safety in the face of individual interviewees opening up about their traumas in the fieldwork. Sarine Karajerjian will be speaking about her experience of following the trajectories of Syrian women refugees in Lebanon and how the fear and anxiety in which they live undermine their mental health. Sarine is the director of the environmental politics program at the Arab Reform Initiative.

  • Episode 6 - 
    Positionality and power dynamics in fieldwork

    Episode 6 covers positionality as a woman researcher, changing power dynamics when your fieldwork is closely linked to previous work as an international development worker and the kind of relation one builds with interviewees during fieldwork. Lana Salman, a Lebanese researcher in Urban Governance and International Development, will be discussing these as part of her work on local politics in Tunisia after 2011.

  • Episode 7 - 
    Fieldwork: Researching the environment politically

    In this episode, Malek Lakhal is speaking to Hamza Hamouchene about how to conduct fieldwork with very little time and how to make sure your research is available to the general public. Hamza is a London-based Algerian researcher-activist and commentator. He is the programme coordinator for North Africa at the Transnational Institute. Hamza has a PhD in cancerology, but he made a U-turn to work on environmental justice in the Arab Region, focusing on energy and extractivism.

  • Episode 8 - 
    Fieldwork: Researching your past activism

    In this episode, Malek Lakhal speaks to Moutaa Amin El Waer about the difficulties inherent to entering a fieldwork one is intimate with, how to create distance with friends when they become interviewees and how to navigate generational differences with people who see you as an elder comrade. Moutaa is a sociologist currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Montréal on student unions in Tunisia. He was very active in student unions when he was studying in Tunis. His fieldwork led him back to the unions that he used to be active in, but this time as a researcher.

  • Episode 9 - 
    Fieldwork: Conducting ethnography in the upper classes

    From classrooms to private sports clubs and shopping malls, Egyptian anthropologist Noha Roushdy conducted ethnography in a relatively poorly studied space: that of the upper classes. She questions the tension between national belonging and cosmopolitism in the Egyptian upper classes through an ethnography of for-profit international private schools. With her, host Malek Lakhal discusses how entering the space of the upper means moving to the suburbs, why one needs sometimes to make them think you are a foreigner and the decolonial aspect of knowing that the people you interview are able to read your research once it is published. Noha Roushdy is currently pursuing her post-doc at the Centre d'études et de documentation économiques, juridiques et sociales in Cairo.

  • Episode 10 - 
    Long-distance fieldwork in Libya

    Host Malek Lakhal speaks to Libyan activist and researcher Asma Khalifa. They talked about long-distance fieldwork, the difficulties inherent to conducting fieldwork in environments where war has torn the trust between people, and how to make sense of the counter-intuitive idea that war can be seen as an opportunity for women.

    Asma is a non-resident fellow (2021-22) at the Arab Reform Initiative.  Her work in Libya includes improving women’s participation in local government and addressing gender-based violence. She is currently a PhD candidate at the German Institute for Global Area Studies, researching the impact of civil war on inter-gender relations. Asma just published a research paper with ARI on what the conflict in Libya has changed in the lives of young people.


Putting fieldwork at the heart of the conversation, 3ala el Maydan invites researchers, journalists, and art practitioners from the Middle East and North Africa region and beyond, to talk about their experiences, discoveries, challenges, and surprises when carrying out field research or on-the-ground investigations in MENA countries.

Part of our Jalsa | جلسة podcast, this new series seeks to build collective knowledge on fieldwork practices to help young researchers and journalists begin their fieldwork journey with a critical eye.