During the past few years, I have been pulling together some of the threads running through my scholarly work and venturing out into more experimental directions, theoretically, methodologically, and practically in how I engage in academic writing. I have always been interested in bodies: in embodied experience, bodily practices, body cultures, and body politics. In my current research, I am looking for ways to do biographical research that bring my informants’ embodied experiences into our interviews and make them a more explicit part of the analysis. In the same vein, I am exploring how I can use my own embodied experiences as an analytic tool in my research. And, finally, I am taking a look at how feminist and other activists bring their own bodies into their protests, through performance, photography, and even fashion and, in particular, how their use of their bodies makes it possible to produce better stories for a more equitable world.
Here are just a few of these projects.
Embodied research. I have explored the problem of passion in doing critical feminist research as well as its anti-thesis; i.e. what happens when the researcher loses her passion and becomes bored, disenchanted, and alienated. This led to a chapter in the forthcoming book Silences, Neglected Feelings, and Myopias in Research Practice which I am editing together with Janice Irvine (Chapter on Boredom). This book provides a ‘behind the scenes’ look at how scholars from different disciplines tackle difficult moments in their own research and, in so doing, show how we might begin to do more reflexive, accountable and embodied research.
Embodied biographies. I have been considering how a more embodied approach to biographical research might improve the kinds of interviews we do and re-think some of the assumptions we make as biographical researchers. I developed this idea in a course I was teaching on biographical research where I asked my students to tell me the story of their life through their body. The stories I got were amazing: topics ranging from clothing to sports, skin color to being taller or shorter than average, provided the basis for a life story. But these stories were very different than the run-of-the-mill chronological biography. They were told with much more emotion and attention to the sensual, embodied aspects of the person’s life. I am beginning to explore the kinds of issues we might be able to address as biographical researchers that have not been possible with our usual methodologies (see my paper Creating emotional spaces)
Poner el cuerpo. As someone who has spent many months living in Argentina, I have become interested in the ways feminists and LGBTQ activists bring the body into their protests (see the website Queering Tango - From The Square. They have a name for it: poner el cuerpo which means ‘to put the body on the line.’ This can involve anything from baring breasts and writing slogans on one’s body to dancing in the streets. These new forms of protest can make use of performance, photography, and even fashion. I have begun investigating examples of these new forms of activism and the ways they transcend the equal rights message of traditional identity politics by engaging with audiences through an awareness of shared vulnerabilities.