How has the course helped you in your career?
The programme’s core course helped me to reinforce and expand my understanding of how different forms of inequality are connected and how theoretical and empirical accounts in social sciences can help us to understand and explore different dimensions of inequality systematically. Methods courses equipped me with the skills and knowledge to design research and choose and conduct different methods aligned with my research inquiries.
Why did you apply to the course?
For about 15 years, I have worked as an activist and social practitioner for children, refugees, and later disability rights. While I had learned many things from the fieldwork and the previous studies, I found that to address the disadvantages that children, refugees and disabled individuals experience, I need to systematically learn about the social, economic and cultural production of disadvantages and ways in which grassroots movements and the people tackle inequality. Inequality and disadvantages are not simply results of the failures and shortcomings of societies. They are historically, economically and socially constructed and made in the capitalist, patriarchal, misogynist, heteronormative, neuronormative, ableist and colonialist systems in favour of those in power. To understand these constructions, theory, empirical research and research methods play a crucial role. I found the curriculum of this program and the AFSEE modules valuable in this regard, so I applied for it.
What is your most memorable moment from the course?
Seminars of the qualitative research method course had several memorable instances for me. Through exciting and creative activities and discussions with peers, these seminars helped me to reflect on my past research practices and build my research proposal and projects. I also met new people, peers, lecturers and researchers of III, working on critical issues such as tax justice, gender equality, environmental justice, anti-colonialism and grassroots movements.
What was the most challenging part of the course?
In the first semester, each week’s lecture was dedicated to a study and one area of inequality. At first, it was a bit challenging to draw connections between them, and I felt a bit lost. However, as the course progressed, lines of links gradually appeared.
Any advice to students just about to embark upon the course?
Lectures, seminars and reading material help us understand and explore our world and become familiar with how social sciences address and study inequality. They are also inspiring and give us new insights and ideas. Thus, I encourage peers to engage with them. But, it is important at the same time to focus more on some themes or areas that are related to their research project, later career or the dissertation.
What do you see as the greatest challenge to addressing inequalities today?
I tend not to prioritise such challenges over each other due to our world’s contextual particularities and complexities. In addition, different groups have raised issues regarding the challenges they face that, in some cases, differ from the problems of other groups.
Thus, instead of thinking about the most significant challenge, I mention two things that I think are important in transforming our mindset. The first is the problem of real politics and problem-solving paradigm, which avoids touching the power relations, social-economic structures and those benefiting from them at the cost of misery, poverty and disadvantage of others. We need to question our deeply seated assumptions and ask how reality is problematised before jumping to find solutions for given problems. The second is the trend of NGOisation in the international development apparatus. Social welfare and people’s fundamental rights are increasingly being reduced and displaced to charitable services delivered by NGOs. While in times of crisis, as in our time, quick action is necessary, we need to be cautious about such displacements that can contribute to depoliticising the social movements of the people. Such a trend also contributes to a professionalism that silences the voices, participation, and knowledge of those who do not speak the “professional” language of development.