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  • Writer's pictureJenia Browne

Reflections on the Research Process


Although I've done research through other courses before, this is the longest individual research process I have engaged in so far. It is also the most independent research project I've engaged in. What has stuck out to me most is the flexibility required of independent research, and how much can change in such little time.


Looking back on the last month and a half, this project has already evolved more than I ever thought it would. I started with topic "Black Queer Literature as a Rebellious Practice." Knowing myself, and knowing my tendency to overshoot and overwrite, my advisor and I refined this to "Black Lesbian Literature as a Rebellious Practice." I now see how this is still a lot to tackle in one semester. What type of literature? Fiction? Non-fiction? Novels or novellas? Short fiction? Poetry? All of the above? If so, how could I choose the best representation of Black lesbian literature as a whole, and how could I argue that it's "rebellious" in nature?


As I've previously discussed, my recent discovery of my love for anthologies narrowed my topic even further. I had to stop reading the (very good) selections we had originally made and rework my entire syllabus. This led me to "Black Lesbian Anthologies as a Rebellious, Community Practice."


But what does rebellious really mean in this context? What definition would I use? The point I was really trying to get across is that Black lesbian literature, and in this case, anthologies, challenges societal norms not only in their representation of overt Black lesbian love and livelihood, but in other spheres as well. Black lesbian authors write uniquely about intersectionality, gender identity, gender expression, love, sexuality, sensuality, and many other topics. The way they represent and discuss these topics subverts societal standards of what is appropriate and "normal." But was rebellious the right word to represent this idea?


Once I started reading Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought by Briona Simone Jones, a quote from Cheryl Clarke's foreward for the anthology struck me: "These artfully chosen selections elucidate the ways sexuality, race, and gender mesh and mingle across the ‘resistive’ and restive topography of the Black lesbian body, and so much more" (p. xvii) In a technical sense, resistive means "able to withstand the action or effect of something." In a more abstract sense, it means "marked by resistance," or "capable or inclined to resistance." This led me, once more, to a title/topic adjustment:


Black Lesbian Anthologies as a Resistive Practice


The multiple large and small edits to my topic have made me realize two things:

  1. I obsess over the final project topic/title much more than I should, and

  2. Research is driven by a constant loop between the researchers ideas and the research content itself

I can have an idea of where I intend a project will go all I want. But the texts I choose or the topic I'm studying can, and as I've learned, likely will inspire a different idea. With every book I've read, I've found new ways to articulate and explore the message I hope to convey in the final products of my research. For example, in Testimony of a Naked Woman in Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing, author Sapphire writes: "I was learning that the power to resist and motivate politically can be connected to seeing yourself as beautiful and deserving of love... I consider the mere Black female form a source of power and a symbol of resistance" (p. 43). Resistance is not only a strong theme in Black lesbian literature, but in Black lesbian lives. Our existence is resistance.


Moving forward in the research process, I hope to give myself more slack to have fun, adjust and explore my research process but also the texts I've selected. Nothing is ever concrete. I could finish Afrekete and have a billion new ideas. As long as I'm cognizant of my habit to spread myself too thin, I think that all of them could be worth exploring!

The next step is to refine what I've already taken down and begin filling in my outline to start writing. Refining my research (which is currently in spreadsheets, notes, and annotations) into my selected subtopics will either be very easy or very, very, difficult. As my ideas and topics have changed, so have my note taking and analysis processes. This step will ultimately be one of the most important, if not the most important part of producing a research paper and poster. In my next post, I hope to update everyone on how that process is going. I'm looking forward to it and I'm appreciative of how much I've already managed to learn, about myself, my identity, and the research process.


Signing off,

Jenia

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