This issue has turned out to be one of ‘case studies’. Not that we called for papers on case studies or planned an issue filled with case studies. During the process of assessing the available papers and deciding which ones to include, it just happened that this group of six emerged as the articles to make up this issue.
A case study brings with it the advantages of exploring a particular aspect or situation in detail and in depth, but it may also have to put up with the limitations of a narrowly concentrated focus. Among the readers of a case study paper, there may therefore be those who are more interested in wider perspectives and general conclusions. We are sure, however, that these articles will bring across their topic-specific data, discussions and findings, but will also prompt inductive reasoning, and insights into more generally applicable results.
In the human sciences, however, case studies bring across more than just theoretical views and practical recommendations. They also communicate, or at least imply, an anti-reifying message. The receptive receiver may pick up this message and realise that ‘case study’ is a rather clinical and even metallic term for ‘a human life situation study’ and that the people involved in the ‘samples’ are not ‘cases’ with convenient reference labels, but real people who have lived through certain experiences together with other real people. And that the memories and/or methods they share with researchers are not things, but bits of living.
So, however scientific and academic we are trying to be, we should constantly remember the fellow-humanness of the people involved in our ‘case studies’. As an eye-opening example, we may think ourselves into the thoughts and feelings of those in a hospital scene as the following: a patient, suffering from a rare disease, and a professor bringing a group of students to observe the ‘case’. The patient, for instance, may realise that her/his ‘case’ may indeed be utilised as a learning opportunity for medical students and as a research opportunity for medical researchers, but may mainly be yearning for his/her own healing. And the professor and students? Will they only be thinking on a medical wavelength or also feeling on a human level?
Incidentally, something I wrote about conflict resolution wisdom from Africa has been cited in one of the articles in this issue. It was a suggestion to use analysing and categorising sparingly, and to follow up such justified procedures with synthesising and integrating. My impression is that the articles in this issue do reflect a comparable orientation towards responsible analysis as far as necessary, but consummated by integrative recommendations. Sincere thanks to the authors of the first five articles.
The last article, specifically called a ‘case study’, deserves a special explanatory note. After our previous regular issue (Vol 12, No 1) had a foreword of which more than half was devoted to the use of sources by authors, this article on citations arrived. It was not solicited, but was self-initiated by two librarians, and it simply turned up as a welcome coincidence. We include it as a very interesting supplement to the citation part of the above-mentioned foreword, with sincere thanks to its authors for taking our journal as their case study.
From the editor’s desk then, my best wishes for meaningful reading and implementing. With two articles on Rwanda, two on South Africa and one on Sudan, and with one article in which negotiating styles are compared and one in which mediating styles are compared – there is much to weigh up and ponder. There is also ample opportunity for imagining oneself into the life situations of citizens, politicians, peacekeepers, refugees, and divorcing partners and their children.