Emelie Glad part-time report

Through interviews with international organisations, national and local NGOs, as well as politicians and public officials in local government, I am exploring issues such as legitimacy and ownership in post-conflict state-building processes.

View over Mitrovica.

View over the "divided city" of Mitrovica where an Albanian majority lives on the South side and a Serbian majority living on the North side.

Just over four weeks ago, I left Uppsala and Sweden for Kosovo. In April and May, I am based in its capital Pristina to carry out field work for my master thesis in peace and conflict studies. In the thesis project, I examine internationally promoted good governance reforms in three of Kosovo’s municipalities.

I left Sweden feeling almost unbearably nervous and convinced the project idea and its practical implementation would start falling to pieces as soon as I landed. Luckily, my stay in Kosovo has so far exceeded my expectations in two different but related ways.

Two soldiers overlooking a city.

Two Swiss NATO-soldiers on the fort in Prizren.

First of all, I have been blessed to quickly find new friends willing to show me the city, advise me on where to go and what to discover, and hang out during evenings and weekends. Pristina is a young city, and there is always time for a cup of macchiato (passionately described by locals as way better than its Italian coffee counterpart) with a new acquaintance in one of the city’s many cafés. People are overwhelmingly friendly, helpful and curious to know what made me decide to go to Kosovo.

Graffiti on a  wall.

Graffiti on a street in Pristina. EULEX is an EU project with the goal of strengthening the state of Kosovo. The project has been criticised by the population and subject to various scandals.

Secondly, and undeniably a cause for even greater relief for a stressed-out master student, I have found that contacting participants for my study and carrying out interviews has been both practically possible and actually quite fun. While the theoretical framework stays the same, I have found that interviews is a great way to practice “learning by doing” and continuously adapting to whatever comes your way. After each interview, I find myself jotting down key words for some part of the phenomenon I am researching, slightly adjusting one of the interview questions, and convinced a newly identified individual is a crucial contact for my findings.

A visitor's pass.

Visitor's pass when doing an interview with a representative at a UN agency.

Nonetheless, it has not been without struggle. Since I am carrying out key informant interviews with individuals in certain positions within municipalities and organisations, there was no single partner organisation that could help me identify a couple of individuals who could then refer me onwards. Rather, I have frantically googled around, sent excessive amounts of e-mails, and tried to map all individuals and organisations of potential interest for the topic and cases I am researching. Four weeks into this endeavour, with a lot of help from people I owe a great debt of gratitude, I have been able to build a network of contacts and knowledge about the system, so as to know who to contact next. After a while, I have also realised that some practical things are hard to control. It is just a matter of doing what is possible and then hoping for the best.

When not working on the study, I spend time exploring every corner of Pristina, visiting my focus municipalities, or taking day trips around Kosovo. The territory is small, so many interesting places are easily reached by a short bus ride. As summer temperatures arrive, I look forward to spending a lot of my remaining free time in Kosovo hiking in some of the mountainous areas, which I have heard are beautiful, and where the air is supposedly much less polluted than in Pristina.

The nervousness on the plane four weeks ago was unfounded but partially necessary. It made me work hard to ensure none of the disaster scenarios I had in mind became realised, despite of none of them ever being very realistic. However, to my previous self, and to anyone planning a field study scared they have not prepared enough: focus on the parts of the study you can control from home – the rest cannot be done from anywhere but the place you’re going, and many things have a reassuring habit of sorting themselves out.