Katherine Olsson

SIS Olson Scholars

Research Portfolio Post #8: Qualitative Data Sources for Interpretivist Research

If I chose to use the interpretivist method, I plan to research the causes of the current outbreak of violence in Nicaragua that started in April of 2018 because I want to find out why there have been repeated outbreaks of civilian unrest and political instability throughout it’s history in order to help my readers understand the root causes of political instability in Nicaragua.

The social practice that I have identified and intend to focus on is political unrest in Nicaragua, as demonstrated by various news articles and recent coverage of the incidents.[1] The incident that is the initial anchor point of my research is the unrest which is still ongoing and began in April of 2018.[2] I intend to begin at this point and then examine the discourses surrounding the causes and the reasons for the unrest over time. In the history of Nicaragua there have been a number of instances of civilian unrest, including violent protests in 2005, civil unrest under the Somoza regime and the political instability tied to the Sandinistas.[3] In each of these instances, there are primary sources explaining people’s reasons for participating in the civil unrest, however, it is possible that these are for different and/or connected reasons, which I intend to explore.

With the current unrest, newspaper articles will be a crucial source. For instance, there is an article from Al-Jazeera that interviewed people in Nicaragua about their perspective on the events and the cause for it.[4] It is not the article itself, but the abundance of direct quotes from interviews that are within them that I would use for analysis. There are a wide number of representations found in this text, however, they are primarily the people who are at protests, which is frequently younger individuals.[5] Additionally, there are often statements from leaders and spokespeople in these media outlets. On the other hand, in more historical instances of civil unrest, such as the Sandinista revolution, there are now memoirs of individuals who were involved which discuss their perspectives and motivations. These, as compiled by historians, are primarily focused on identities of leaders and spokespeople of the movements as well, along with groups that were heavily influenced or influenced in a way that was different from the norm of the time.[6] For instance there are books compiling memoirs of women in the Sandinista movement.[7] These texts, discourses and practices are linked through time and motivation. There are similarities in the motivations which are evident in the texts. For instance, in both 2005 and 2018, people were frequently motivated by their lack of trust in the government.[8] However, other people had different motivations, such as ideological oppositions to the government or the benefits they would receive from change.[9] These similarities and differences will be the focus of my research in order to unravel what are the root causes of political instability in Nicaragua through the lenses of the people involved in them at that time.

[1] Gallón, Natalie. “At Least 317 Killed in Ongoing Protests in Nicaragua, Rights Group Says.” CNN. August 05, 2018. Accessed November 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/05/americas/nicaragua-violent-protests/index.html.

[2] BBC. “Nicaragua Profile – Timeline.” BBC News. May 31, 2018. Accessed November 2018. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-19909695.

[3] BBC. “Nicaragua Profile – Timeline.” BBC News. May 31, 2018. Accessed November 2018. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-19909695.

[4] Al Jazeera. “Nicaragua Unrest: What You Should Know.” GCC News | Al Jazeera. July 17, 2018. Accessed November 2018. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/nicaragua-protests-180530130717018.html.

[5] Al Jazeera. “Nicaragua Unrest: What You Should Know.” GCC News | Al Jazeera. July 17, 2018. Accessed November 2018. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/nicaragua-protests-180530130717018.html.

[6] Hoover Institution. “Sandinistas and Contras Documented.” Hoover Institution. February 28, 2011. Accessed November 2018. https://www.hoover.org/news/sandinistas-and-contras-documented.

[7] Randall, Margaret. Sandino’s daughters: Testimonies of Nicaraguan women in struggle. Rutgers University Press, 1981.

[8] BBC. “Nicaragua Profile – Timeline.” BBC News. May 31, 2018. Accessed November 2018. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-19909695.

[9] Al Jazeera. “Nicaragua Unrest: What You Should Know.” GCC News | Al Jazeera. July 17, 2018. Accessed November 2018. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/nicaragua-protests-180530130717018.html.

2 comments

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    Hi Katherine!
    Your topic seems fascinating and has definitely evolved since we last spoke about it. Since the violence is ongoing media sources are definitely a great primary source to look at. However, maybe you can also look at government statements to identify the different interpretations for the causes from the private versus the public sector.

    Good Luck!

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    Katherine — you have a good start here in terms of some primary source documents, but it seems that many of these provide general background information rather than insights into the identities, symbols, or meanings that are being created or changing (the discourses themselves). Importantly, the overall focus of of the investigation here needs to center more on the meanings or identities that are being created/constructed. In your problem statement you write “I plan to research the causes of the current outbreak of violence in Nicaragua that started in April of 2018 because I want to find out why there have been repeated outbreaks of civilian unrest and political instability throughout it’s history in order to help my readers understand the root causes of political instability in Nicaragua.” ” — but that doesn’t really work in this methodology since the ideas of cause effect or “root causes” are not valid here! Remember that the interpretivist methodology focuses on how discourses — meanings, symbols, identities — are created and reproduced. Who/what is being given meaning or “brought into being” through the discourses? (Just as lone mothers are constructed as, or brought into being as, immoral individuals in the discourses that Carabine analyzes). The middle part of your problem statement should focus on *that* and not on a proposed cause-effect question. With this in mind, what would your problem statement look like?

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