Monday, 17 December 2007

Anna Bask's research plan

Research Plan by Anna Bask

My aim is to examine the reasons that have led Argentina and Uruguay, the two formerly very peaceful neighbours, to the most serious conflict since the early twentieth century. There are various different actors in the conflict, of whom no one acts in a vacuum without any interaction between each other. I will assess the case from the Argentine national point of view. I have chosen this my focal point because I find it vital to the development of the conflict: without the government's involvement, the conflict would have been unlikely to ever hit the headlines outside the local communities by the River Uruguay. Obviously, my paper will only deliver a part of the explanation to the dispute, and it would unquestionably look very different from the viewpoint of the local movement or the Uruguayan government.

The central questions of my dissertation are: What are the political motives for letting the conflict to assume the current dimensions? Why did the government want to turn the conflict into a “national question”? Why are the road blocks not dismantled? How does the past affect the present? The timeline of my research is Néstor Kirchner´s regime 2003-2007.

This autumn, I travelled to Argentina and Uruguay to carry out interviews in order to find out more about the Argentine government’s motives. In the interviews with various scholars and journalist it became clear that no consensus exists on the true nature or the motives of the conflict. Many viewed both the birth of the conflict as well as its developments completely accidental, only manifesting the inability of the Argentine politicians to plan ahead and only seek the short-term benefits. Others, however, detected at least some sort of central or regional planning behind it. The majority linked the conflict and its nationalisation strongly to the identity crisis in Argentina caused by the economic collapse in 2001, even to the point of making references to the Falkland War and the pathological need for the state for regional hegemony, others viewed the case almost merely as the result of local political opportunism. Some scholars stressed the importance of the local actors in the development of the crisis, while others saw it as something carefully planned from the top.

Drawing from these ideas, I concluded that the following points are relevant to understanding the motives of Kirchner and his government’s actions (not listed in an order of importance):

· The historical relations between Argentina and Uruguay: how Uruguay is often perceived in Argentina as one more province, an “artificial” state with no real reason to exist. How this affects the Argentine foreign politics towards its neighbour

· The Argentine political culture: this entails institutional weakness, Peronism, populism, clientelism and the Argentine state structure

· The economic collapse in 2001 and its consequences, i.e. identity and legitimacy crisis

· The Argentine president Kirchner's personal experiences and political style: this includes Kirchner’s experiences as the governor of Santa Cruz

So on the one hand, my work will assess the events by looking at the long term factors, such as the country's wealthy past as an explanatory factor for the current identity crisis, or the shared past, but on the other hand, it does not pretend to be able to explain the entire course of events by models offered by historical experiences.

As material, I will use research literature (books and articles), newspaper articles, blogs and interviews that I carried out in Argentina and Uruguay in autumn 2007. The study will be carried out as a case study, drawing from a range of disciplines from history to sociology and political sciences.

I am planning to finish my thesis in winter 2008.