RPP 7: Qualitative Data Sources

Currently, the overall question I am looking into is, “What explains difference in outcome in democracy movements in Tunisia, Egypt, and Romania?”

My dependent variable with this question is the outcome of democratic reforms. I will operationalize this variable through either labeling it as non-transformative, partially transformative, or fully transformative. This will be determined through an analysis of qualitative data to see to what extent, if any, of progress towards democratization was made as an effect of the reforms, including factors such as the length of lasting effects, the extent to which democratic legal and overall regime change occurred, and the extent of allowance of free speech and press.

Three cases I am currently considering are Tunisian and Egyptian democracy movements during the Arab Spring and the Romanian anti-communist movements. I do realize that these cases occur in different time periods, but I believe that this is an inevitable issue if I am to analyze cases which occur in different regions, as democratic reforms generally occur in a sort of domino effect within particular regions, as seen in the Arab Spring regarding the Middle East and Northern Africa, eastern European anti-communist movements in the mid-1900s, and Latin American democratic reforms in the late 1900s and early 2000s.

I have located data sources specifically analyzing the outcome of Egypt’s Arab Spring democratic protest. To fully represent the extent to which change occurred after this movement, I have chosen two differing perspectives on the issue. The first is an interview held with Alaa Abdel Fattah, an influential Egyptian pro-democracy activist, who describes his experiences fighting for democracy in Egypt, and how he has been jailed several times for speaking outwardly about democracy in the years before the interview.[1]Contrastingly, the second source is a translated version of the new official Egyptian constitution, which was formally released and implemented starting in 2014, and states many democratic articles, even including articles regarding “due process” and “freedom of thought”.[2]Both of these sources combined give a broader perspective on the extent of democratic transformation; with this information, I would prescribe Egypt’s Arab Spring outcome as partially transformative because there was a democratic change in the literal law, but as seen through personal accounts, the regime remains extremely authoritarian and restrictive. However, I would be sure to consult more sources to determine this in the actual implementation of this research design aspect.

[1]Nermeen Shaik and Amy Goodman, “Alaa Abd El Fattah, Egyptian Blogger and Critic of Military Regime, Speaks Out After Months in Jail.” Democracy Now! 28 Dec, 2011. https://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/28/alaa_abdel_fattah_egyptian_blogger_and.

[2]International IDEA, trans. “Egypt’s Constitution of 2014,” Arab Republic of Egypt.12 Aug 2019. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Egypt_2014.pdf.

3 thoughts to “RPP 7: Qualitative Data Sources”

  1. Hello Claudia,

    You have some solid sources. Are you considering including any other forms of data collection? I am also considering a small-n research question that factors in how activists and organizers impact political outcomes. I am thinking about utilizing interviews to gain more information on how activists mobilize. Are considering this form of data collection? I know that some people who were involved in activism in Egypt have migrated to the U.S as a result of the aftermath of the Arab Spring. So I am curious if you intend to reach out to these activists and journalists.

  2. Hi Claudia,

    Thanks for sharing! I was wondering if you were planning on doing different protests from around the world. I understand you have two regions from your three cases, but I wonder how your analysis – though I know we are not doing one – might change if each case came from a different region of the world because almost all regions have had countries that have democracy movements. In that comparison you might find more interesting conclusions! On the other hand, having cases that all come from one region might also be interesting and allow you to come to a generalized conclusion about democracy movements in a specific region.

    In regard to sources, I really like that you have a mix of interviews and documents. I would continue with that mix because it provides the activist’s perspective as well as the governments which allows a better analysis of the case.

  3. Claudia — the primary sources that you discuss here would be relevant to establishing the value of a DV related to democratization for the Egyptian case. Before settling on cases, though, it would probably be a good idea to step back and first establish what the specific empirical events are that you are aiming to explain. Remember that case study research begins with that concrete observation of an event of some sort, just as Saunders observed that Kennedy’s Vietnam policy emphasized internal transformation while Johnson’s did not have this emphasis (the values of this DV were established through reading primary sources that provided evidence of the policy aims in each administration). Saunders is thus analyzing the shift from one concrete, identifiable policy to another. What are the concrete, identifiable events that you are proposing to analyze? If you begin with just the case of Egypt, what happened in Egypt that demands explanation?

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