News - November 25, 2018

Blog: Research methods on the road

Angelo Braam

In a previous blog, Angelo Braam wrote about the fun he had while hitchhiking. It also gave him a lot of new views on things. Even study-related insights, depending of the location he reached.

© Sven Menschel

Last summer, I hitchhiked through a number of countries in the Balkans, including Bosnia. A country that we usually associate with the conflict in the 1990s. Conflicts are among the most intriguing aspects of my studies, and I hoped Bosnia would teach me about the way local people think of it in current times.

I quickly hitched rides in Bosnia, and people were eager to share their opinions. One of them was Zoran, a Serbian Bosnian who had picked me up in an eastern province and with whom I had the pleasure of spending several hours. A very friendly man who had studied, spoke fluent English and told me many things about the country and especially about its Serbian traditions.

Rougher note
The conversation reached a somewhat rougher note when, after some time, we touched on the subject of the conflict in Bosnia. Zoran became reproachful; not toward the former enemies, the Bosniaks, but toward the higher powers who ended the conflict at the time: the US and NATO. According to him, they had ended the conflict based on lies, such as those about the Srebrenica genocide and about the bloodthirsty Serbian army. What Zoran considered lies were things that I had more or less accepted as truths, because that was the way they were presented to us.

Bosnië is een immens verdeeld land en nog verre van hersteld van haar conflict

Besides Zoran, many other people also shared their opinions on the conflict while we were on the road, and these opinions varied immensely. It provided me with many new insights into, facts about and recollections of the conflict. But much more than that, it indicated how strongly Bosnia is divided and how far it still is from recovering after the conflict.

Walks of life
Considering the study-related information that I received during the abovementioned rides, I started wondering whether searching for respondents by hitchhiking could be applied to qualitative research. Randomisation is automatic, and you get to speak to people of all walks of life, who often share their opinion. I can hear you thinking – this sounds a bit imaginative, of course. Yet the anthropological field research we will be carrying out within the programme in Ireland next year seems like an excellent opportunity to test the academic usability of hitchhiking. And I certainly intend to do that.

Angelo Braam is a second-year bachelor’s student in International Development Studies