Research Statement

There is a history of committing violence through research and this propensity for violence needs to change. In the name of science, impoverished African American male sharecroppers were denied access to penicillin treatments for their syphilis as well as knowledge of their disease and its progression; white male college students in the Stanford area were inducted into prison roles that resulted in maltreatment and violence; a group of people were tricked into believing they had administered shock as a so-called training technique when the study was really intended to look at obedience patterns. Though these overtly violent approaches to research are not common in contemporary social science, I want my work to confront unintended and unacknowledged subtle violence that continues to riddle research practices. It is not uncommon in the production of qualitative research to offer some heartfelt and sincere sentences locating the researcher in the inquiry project itself and more specifically in relation to participants. However, the call for addressing racial violence in the world, for example, requires deeper reflection and transformation. The history of racialized violence that has been internalized by those of us reared in racist communities can be reflected through the racially diverse collaborations in which we engage. Drawing on Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Critical Race Theory and studies on Whiteness and White privilege, I must face the question, "When Should the White Women Speak?" Clifford Geertz (1989) analyzed the writing of anthropologists in the early twentieth century to report the violence that happens when we describe "others'" lives in ways that they would not agree with or understand. Gyatri Spivak's (1988) essay "Let the Subaltern Speak" drew attention to the violence that occurs when researchers speak FOR OTHERS who are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves. The problem of committing violence through our research is not one of the past. To echo Ghandi, we need to be the change we seek. Engaging in research that can be described as nonviolent would infuse a commitment to relationship, compassion, dialogue, and critique (by which is meant: the researcher not taking her own position in the world for granted, including the failure to see her own fallibility) across the gamut of methodological decisions made in the course of any given research project.