Day 9: Happy researcher is exhausted
A happy researcher is a tired one. On my last day, I went to a party convention, hoping to interview two representatives who were going to be there. I also managed to squeeze an interview with a civil servant, who also happened to be there. Three interviews over 8 hours, plus I got to take a picture with President Dilma! The day was completely worth it, but by the time I got home, all I wanted was sleep.
While a lot happened, there isn't that much to tell. I mean, it's all going in the thesis. However, it is a good example of the extreme lengths we have to go as researchers, as people who research "elites" (I hate that word), and particularly in Brazil. I have found that while the Chamber is highly professionalized, the role of the representatives is largely undefined, which means hectic schedules, triage of priorities, and cancellations. And, since I was dealing with representatives that have stronger links to social movements, an inability to say "no". (Although, I should say "no" is something Brazilians don't like to say and will do anything to avoid saying it, even lie.)
The people who are in charge of the deputies' schedule are, therefore, the most important people to connect with. And I don't mean this in a calculating way - it's just how things get done. You ask the deputy, they say "yes" without having any idea if they have time or not, and then they direct you to the person "actually" in charge. After that, that's the only person you'll be dealing with until the interview. Quite different from Sweden, where MPs answer their own emails.
I interviewed one deputy almost at lunch time, another about an hour after lunch. As I was leaving, I bumped into the civil servant I thought I was gonna leave without speaking with. Then we talked for almost two hours. Yes, what the actual representatives think is incredibly important. But the people in charge of carrying out their ideas or even the people in charge of presenting them with ideas, the people who are there election after election, they have a lot to say. And we, as political scientists, need to start asking and listening. Because the daily grind, it's there. How the institution holds up, it's there. And we've stopped looking and paying attention, favoring downloable data without context.
Anyway, last but not least. I saw the president from afar and I still have no idea how I managed to get my phone out in time for a picture. We took a selfie and she can't take a step without someone stopping her for a picture. On April 17th 2016, I was in tears because they deposed a woman who had done nothing wrong. I also cried for a country who was starting to experience democracy and progress. And I say that with all the scientific objectivity of the data that backs me up. Say what you will about her presidency; she did nothing to warrant an impeachment. And that's my professional opinion.