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PhD student Thia Sagherian-Dickey tells us about her experience conducting research in the Lebanon.

“In June 2016, I spent five weeks on the first of two research visits to Lebanon, mainly in Beirut.  The purpose of the visit was to build a network of contacts with key members of religious and political groups, social activists and academics in Lebanon, and to carry out data collection for the second study of my PhD.

This particular phase of my PhD investigates the underlying processes of intergroup trust in Northern Ireland and in Lebanon. Having lived in Beirut for over 25 years, I have experiential knowledge of the country, as well as cultural and political dynamics.  An important factor in distributing my survey for data collection in Lebanon was the heightened sensitivity the Lebanese people have towards anything deemed political.  Compounded by relatively less familiarity with academic survey research (at least, in comparison with Northern Ireland), it was not uncommon for potential participants to respond with anxiety, anger, contempt or suspicion. 

As a result of these reactions, I spent a lot of time meeting with key members of communities, social activists and political leaders, sharing information about the research and answering questions.  These were often first points of contact that could either open up the opportunity for data collection or close the door completely.  For example, I spent one late afternoon meeting for an hour with the assistant to the Minister of Interior and Municipalities.  This led to direct contact with the leader of the youth sector of one of the major political parties in Lebanon and with a social activist in the Beqaa Valley near the Lebanese-Syrian border.  Both of these gentlemen were my access to their community groups.

My second trip is planned for December 2016 to carry out the final study, and will be funded by the School’s PhD Mobility Fund”.