Field Research in a Protracted Conflict Situation: A Qualitative Exploration of Conflict Management in Kashmir in South Asia


The research explored the changing nature of vertical engagement of the Indian state and the marginalized people of Kashmir on its side of the de facto border by focusing on the state initiatives for conflict management. It sought to resolve the question: What are the nature, scope, and impact of the interactions between the Kashmiri traders and the policymakers of India, and with what implications for the conflict? Drawing from the theories of protracted social conflicts and pressure groups, it conducted a qualitative inquiry utilizing responses to in-depth interviews with 23 Kashmiri traders and 14 state officials to investigate the vertical conflictual relationship between the traders and the policymakers. The field study was conducted between July 2014 and November 2015. To examine the interaction between the traders and the policymakers and its impact on conflict management, four categories of information were required: communication between the traders and the policymakers, input provided by the traders, impact of the input on the policymaking, and implications of the communication for conflict management. The research concluded that although Indian state policy addressed the economic needs of the marginalized and aided the process of conflict management, it did not effectively address identity-related demands, which were more crucial for the management of the conflict. The current article focuses on the methods used in the research, and offers experience-based suggestions on how to conduct field research in a protracted conflict situation.

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