Interview with Dr Ángela Suárez-Collado (Post-doc Fellow)

Written by Yanda T. Bango, 03 April 2015

Photo taken by the Käte Hamburger Kolleg’s team

Photo taken by the Käte Hamburger Kolleg’s team

Dr Ángela Suárez-Collado comes from the North of Spain. She moved to study Political Science and Sociology in the University of Granada. After this, she received a fellowship in Madrid, this is a special programme where a student can move from one university to another within the country. She decided to move to Madrid to finish her graduate studies there, where she heard news about a special research team working on Mediterranean Politics and International Relations on the Mediterranean area. When she finished her degree in Political Science she then decided to do Postgraduate Studies in the centre Taller de Estudios Internacionales Mediterráneos, which is attached to the Islamic and Arab Studies Department. For her Master dissertation, she decided to research about the role played by civil society in a particular area of Morocco during a humanitarian crisis provoked by an earthquake. She spent almost one month conducting field work in the affected region. The time she spent in this area of Northern Morocco is when she noticed the Amazigh activism, also known as Berber Activism, and she decided that she wants to do her PHD dissertation on this. The PHD was specifically focused on the postcolonial history of Berber populations through the case study of Amazigh Activism in the provinces of Nador and Al Hoceima. She expresses that when she moved there it was perfect because it was during a challenging time, there was a lot of activism going on, there were important political reforms concerning the issue of diversity, linguistic and cultural rights for this part of the population in the country.

Her research at the Centre for Global Cooperation Research is on The Amazigh Diaspora in Europe: Mapping its Role in Promoting Cultural Distinctiveness and Transnational Cooperation. She joined the centre because the call for proposals that they made was very interesting and relevant to her research. She also felt that joining a multi-disciplinary centre and research Unit 2, in particular, was the perfect space for her to develop her Post-doctoral research project since the lines of interest would be beneficial both ways. As such, during her time at the centre, her study focus has been on three European countries: Germany, Netherlands and Belgium.

In the case of the Amazigh Diaspora, also Amazigh Activism in North Africa, Suárez-Collado thinks that the discourse that they have on religion is very interesting. She adds “the fact that they claim for an establishment of a separation between religion and politics and when looking at the current situation, even with communities coming from Muslim countries, they are one of the biggest actors promoting secularism and at the same time division between politics and religion. This is in fact one of the discourses they use to present themselves as a different group coming from North African and Muslim countries. Sometimes it is clear that this is very instrumentalized but sometimes not and in the local level, from time to time, they have to face important issues with more radical groups”.

Regarding her research outcomes, she admits that her initial aim of presenting a comparative study about Amazigh activism in the diaspora in the three countries (Germany, Netherlands and Belgium) proved to be very difficult. As a result, she decided to shift her focus to the Netherlands because she had access to more contacts and the Amazigh activism is also more active there. Suárez-Collado believes that her project results are long term and that she needs more time to develop the original project. She also adds that by now she has certainly gained more insight and input regarding specific situations about the communities in the Netherlands. She hopes to one day convert her research into a book.

On the matter of bridging research with practical life, Suárez-Collado expressed that in her case, she is in contact with her study groups and she shares her findings with them as well.  Suárez-Collado expressed that academics obviously have a big response to her work but for her it is important that the people she is writing about also respond. In the Netherlands, Moroccans are the largest foreign population and the Berbers are estimated to make up 70% of that Moroccan community. It is for this reason that she thinks their story matters and needs to be shared.  Suárez-Collado wants to directly keep her work very close to the immigrant associations.

Responding to the question of what she thinks should be done to make younger people more present in the academic sphere, not only through writing but other platforms, Suárez-Collado thinks that it depends on the centre that one is working for and the kind of platforms that are granted there. She uses her case as an example. “In my home university I am part of the research project in which even PHD students are involved. The directors of the centre have always been very concerned about introducing the new generations into academics. For instance, one of my supervisors always made an effort to introduce me to all the spheres of academic life where he already had experience. He encouraged me to work with him and sometimes trust me enough to go to certain places in his place when he was not able to make it. So I think supervisors are very important and they should also make sure that they impact their students positively, this is very important”.

During her fellowship at the centre Suárez-Collado lived in Duisburg  and she finds it to be a peaceful city that is very well connected with all the parts of the country.  She adds that “maybe it is not the most beautiful city in the area but the environment is really nice and positive”.

Book Challenge Dr Ángela Suárez –Collado’s top ten books:

  1. Cien años de soledadby Gabriel GarcíaMárquez
  2. Le pain nuby Mohamed Choukri
  3. A Room of One’s ownby Virginia Woolf
  4. Beyond the Veil by Fatima Mernisi
  5. Islam et liberté, le malentendu historiqueby Mohamed Charfi
  6. Hacia un saber sobre el alma by María Zambrano
  7. Hestoria Universal de Paniceiros by Xuan Bello.
  8. Pasajero en tránsitoby Ernesto Cardenal.
  9. Tratado de culinaria para mujeres tristesby Hector Abad Faciolince.
  10. Things the grandchildren should know by Mark Oliver Everett.
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