I am sitting outside the city library, in the sun. Spring is almost here. The snow is melting, drops fall from the shed above my head. As they land on the row of rocks in front of me, they make a low tapping sound; sound as pop the bubbles on the bubble wraps. As the branches of the tree sinuously spread over my head, I think of theories, and philosophy and research and ethics, because that is what I’ve been reading for the past few days for my small scale case study for my current course.
It can be a little annoying, reading essays on different methods of doing research, because after sometime you can’t dismiss big words like ethnography, ethnomethodology, phenomenology and whatnot from your head. However, I’m not denying that these are not fun things to read, because as I read more about the philosophies of doing research, I keep coming across interesting and intriguing ways and reasons for doing research work. My professor Nina Lykke refers to the technique of ‘writing as a method of inquiry’—the need for research and academic writings to be both creative and analytic. The need to make the boundaries between literary and theoretical, creative and scholarly writings more permeable, and here I quote my professor (because I think it’s a fun quote) “…the attention to communication, and the question of going beyond the ivory tower of research in order to communicate with a wider public, not only an academic audience. How can a writing style be developed that is both creative/transgressive and easily accessible?”
Research is done not only to present facts and data, but it should also lead to one (writer and reader) experiencing the ‘poetic truth’ (aesthetic and ethical effects, epiphany, makes us look at a well-known thing differently). With research works becoming multi-, trans- and cross- disciplinary, new methods and styles of writings are emerging. Academic writings have started to include not only theoretical essays, but also poetries, journals, letters and dialogues of research subjects. Patti Lather and Chris Smithie did their research on women living with HIV/AIDS and wrote the book “Troubling the angels.” They asked the participating women to read a draft of the book before it was printed, involving them as the editorial board to see how they responded to the research writing as “non-academic” readers. I can also think of the current book that I’m reading called “The bride called my back” by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua. The book is an eclectic collection of poems, short journals and theoretical essays by women of color in the USA. Even the graphic layout of a research book is important when it comes to cater the writing to a wide range of readers.
Feminist theorist and philosopher of science and technology, Donna Haraway uses the term ‘story-telling practice’ to talk about scientific practice and knowledge production. She talks about situated knowledge, and the importance of recognising bodily differences and realities and different subjectivities. As a researcher, it is important to keep all these in mind. Theories give us a different perspective and understanding of the world. I also think theories at times are pristine and neat, and our lived realities are way messier than theories, and it almost comes as a privilege to study theories. We don’t and can’t apply theories in real lives all the time. Nonetheless, transgressive theories and writing styles are all fascinating areas of exploration for a researcher and for anyone who likes to read and know.
(The writer is Reporter, Star Campus, currently doing Master’s in Gender Studies: Intersectionality and Change at Linköping University, Sweden.)