News from Project B09

Alex Nadège Ouedraogo, doctoral researcher in project B09, spent four weeks in Senegal. In two different regions, Dakar and Casamance, she explored the topic of her thesis: social policy related to food security.

Nadège, you have recently returned from a research trip. Where have you been?

I was at Dakar and I visited Ziguinchor, a city in the south of Senegal, that has seen conflicts for several years but now everything seems to be calm.

What was the purpose of your trip?

During the first week, I took part in a summer school in Dakar that was organised by the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and the Centre for African Studies Basel (CASB). The theme was: "African Studies and Africanists: Whence the Gaze?". As my parents are from Burkina Faso, I've been interested in working with Africans scholars and in Africa. It was interesting to be surrounded by other PhD students from the African continent. I learned a lot about doing a PhD and doing research in Africa. Well, and after that I stayed another week in Dakar collecting information to locate archives and networking. Then I travelled to the South during the third week to explore and learn about the region and came back to Dakar for the final week. These last three weeks of my trip were directly related to my PhD and the research within our B09 project while the first week was more about being a researcher in an African context.

What is you research about?

In our project B09 we are working on social policy in Africa, and in my case it's about social policy related to food security. My recent trip to Senegal helped me a lot to find a more particular and original angle from which to conduct my research.

How did this happen?

I did not make any appointments for any interviews before I started my research trip. I wanted to have first impressions of what's going on at the local level. I did not want to run into the government or NGOs straight away but rather meet and talk with the local population. That is what I did.

Could you already gather information or data that you can use for your research?

Not actually data. But I now know in which direction I want to conduct my research. Speaking with many local people and sitting with them on the market helped me a lot. I also visited some households that I got introduced to. I discussed with these people what they think about social policy and what it means to them. I soon realised that most of them do not even use those terms. It doesn't make sense for them. Most of them use the term public policy. This preliminary research trip helped me to adopt a certain position and a certain vocabulary. I also realised that for the locals food security depends on access to food. Access not so much in financial terms but rather in terms of transportation and local availability. Most people told me that they would like to buy certain kind of food but cannot find it. Or that it is produced for export exclusively. It was interesting to discover that food security is closely related to transport infrastructure and spatial planning.

Which language did you speak with the local people?

I spoke French. But most people in Senegal speak Wolof which I don't speak. That made it a bit harder to make sure people understand me and vice versa. But most of the time I had someone local who helped interpreting when people did not speak much French. But I will do my best to learn basics of Wolof soon.

What are your next steps?

Now I have to write my thesis proposal. Thanks to this preliminary field trip and the readings, I had done before I should be fine. Now I have ideas of how I want to conduct my research and it's more grounded because I've been in the country.

Have you planned next trips already?

If my thesis proposal is approved, I hope I will be able to go back to Senegal for a longer period of time. Time is really a constraint. I cannot leave all my activities here in Bremen but it's really important for my ethnographic research approach to be in the country and to stay as long as possible.

Alex Nadège Ouedraogo
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 176 73 96 96 90

Dr. Roy Karadag
Dr. Roy Karadag
Roy Karadag presents a draft paper that examines the questions: What effect did the uprisings and subsequent regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt have on social policy? Did the democratisation of Tunisia lead to a strengthening of the welfare state?

The situation in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East before the so-called Arab Spring was similar: deficient state budgets, low economic growth, weak industrialisation, high unemployment, lack of prospects for young people. As a result of these similarities, the protests originating in Tunisia have spread throughout the region and led to the overthrow of the government in many countries.

But what effect did these regime changes have on the social policies of the respective states? Roy Karadag, Kressen Thyen and Saara Inkinen, who are working together in the CRC project "Transnational Welfare - Rise, Decay and Renaissance of Social Policy in Africa", are investigating this question. In a case study they compare post-revolution, democratically ruled Tunisia with military-ruled Egypt. Has the democratisation of Tunisia led to an expansion of social policy programmes?

At the colloquium of SFB 1342, InIIS and BIGSS on June 12, Karadag presented the state of the art in research on this topic. Karadag gave an overview of the literature dealing with the interrelation between democratisation and state welfare programmes. According to this, there are three "schools of thought":

a) Most of the literature assumes a positive correlation between democratisation and the extent of state welfare programmes. The reasons are: the growing influence of large underprivileged sections of the population through democratic elections while at the same time putting pressure on elected governments to meet the demands for an expansion of social services.
b) A smaller number of authors cannot see any connection between the democratisation of a country and its social policy. Non-democratic governments are also interested in a stable society. Welfare programmes are one tool to achieve this goal.
c) A minority of authors come to the conclusion that democratisation tends even to lead to a reduction in social programmes. Examples include Latin American countries that have cut their social benefits under the influence of international organisations such as the World Bank and the World Monetary Fund.

So what is the situation in Tunisia and Egypt? So far there have been no significant differences between the social policies of the two countries, Karadag reported. Both countries initially tried to preserve their social policy institutions and programmes, but have been implementing austerity measures in cutting energy and food subsidies for a year now, even against resistance from the population.

According to Karadag, however, it is still too early for a final evaluation. Tunisia is facing a presidential election in 2019. It will soon become clear how the government and opposition politicians will act in the election campaign phase and what role social policy will play in this. However, the Egyptian military regime under President Sisi is implementing these cuts through increased repression and violence against opposition and activists.
Karadag, Thyen and Inkinen plan to present their detailed research results first at the CRC conference in October 2018 in Bremen and then publish them first as a working paper and later in a peer-reviewed journal.

Dr. Roy Karadag
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-67468