Using Interviews to Research Development Interventions in a Politicized Context: The Case of Post-War El Salvador

Abstract

This case study looks at the method of conducting interviews on the subject of development interventions in a post-war context. It reflects on a PhD research project that examined different externally funded development interventions in the period (post 1992) after the Salvadoran peace agreements had been signed following 12 years of civil war. The research dealt with the political dimension of these aid flows at different levels—national, departmental, and village—in the years from 1992 to 1997. The research was qualitative, the most important method being semi-structured interviews. In addition, in-depth observation was used in selected fieldwork sites. The case study deals, in particular, with the experiences of conducting interviews about politically sensitive topics. It argues that identifying “high-level” political liaisons and influence on development programming can be rather challenging. But the method of interviewing is particularly useful to trace development interventions and the day-to-day politics of development programming.

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