Reset and Research

I’m a strong believer in being in the right place at the right time and meeting the right person in the right season. I spend a lot of time encouraging, motivating and supporting others. But at times, I meet people who without realising do the same for me.

This happened on Sunday. I attended my local church, New Testament Church of God, it was Youth day and a guest preacher Rev Nerissa addressed the congregation.  Her message was directed at the youth, but I got a lot from it.  What particularly stood out for me and is the focus of this post was her take on the prefix ‘RE’ from a spiritual perspective.

Before I begin, I would like to give some context to this post.

Between the 2nd and 3rd April 2020, I will be presenting a poster and article entitled: Black women in leadership: The Complexity of Intersectionality, at the Third International Convention on Gender Research – University of Reading. The study was a continuation of my Ph.D. researcher, Defining Our Experience: A Psychosocial Analysis of the Racial, Gendered and Subjectivity of Black Women Employees in the British Prison Service. This study was converted into an academic book: Black Women Prison Employees: The Intersectionality of Gender and Race, published in 2018, by Edwin Mellen Press.

My article and poster have been peer-reviewed and accepted. I had planned to update my article by publishing my research findings. Unfortunately, I have faced several barriers and challenges from my chosen organisation and have not been able to undertake my research.

There are times when good ideas are dismissed and ignored. Studies have shown that black scholars’ ideas and research are more likely to be rejected when the focus is on race/ethnicity issues, because of the colonisation of the curriculum and structural racism/sexism within organisations. So, I was not surprised by the rejection, but I was disappointed.

Don’t be deterred!

The ‘RE‘ words were just what I needed to realign my focus and move around the barriers I am currently facing. So, I am sharing them today because I strongly believe they will inspire and motivate other scholars who may be facing similar challenges.

There are many words with the prefix RE. I will be discussing six: Reignite; Reenergise; Reinvent; Rethink; Rework, and Rebuild because these are the words that I have decided to apply to my situation.

Reignite – There may be times when the flame which once burned brightly metaphorically speaking, flickers and needs reigniting to shine brightly again. The flame is your passion. When you feel passionate about your project you will find a way to negotiate, amend, or move to a different institution to complete it.

I have decided to pursue a different project in a different organisation. Look out for my updates.

Reenergise – Life, work, responsibilities can take its toll. I’ve noticed recently how I have had to discipline myself to prioritise my time to ensure I have work-life balance. The energy and drive I once had for my original project were seeping slowly away because I was distracted with work commitments and wanting to follow my original plan, even though it had been rejected. However, now that I have redirected my interests into a new research project, I’m feeling reenergised and excited.

Reinvent – My interest in black women working in white patriarchal organisations has not diminished. I completed my PhD because I wanted to make black women employees visible in HM Prison and Probation Service. I have achieved that through my research and publication. I recognise black women work in different sectors and have similar and different psychosocial experiences depending on the dynamics of the organisation and the reality, not policy on inclusivity. For my own growth, it is time for me to move on and take my innovative thinking and revolutionary ideas and talents elsewhere.

Rethink – I’ve realised how easy it is to become complacent and comfortable. I was in a state of institutional paralysis. In simple terms, I was focused on my current organisation, overlooking other organisations interested in embedding inclusive practices for all staff, and the opportunity to work collaboratively with others interested in my area of expertise.

Rework – I now accept the barrier I’m currently facing as a blessing in disguise. Because it has forced me to think beyond my organisation and rework and rethink my current study interest.

I still have an interest in black women’s positioning in white patriarchal organisations. My new study will still focus on black women in leadership from an intersectional and organisational psychodynamic perspective, but within a different organisation.

Rebuild – I have built and established a network as a result of my study. I aimed to draw on this network to recruit participants to take part in my original study. Now that I have changed my research focus, I plan to rebuild my network in different sectors. It will be a challenge and take time, but I am looking forward to meeting black women from other organisations.

My recent discussion with a new sponsor from a different organisation was fruitful. I am looking forward to working beyond the carceral space (a term discussed in my book).

To summarise, do not be disheartened if your ideas are rejected. Apply the prefix RE to your situation, have faith and persevere.

You will succeed!

Authentic lecturing

In my true innovative fashion, I decided to deliver a lecture on autoethnography.

Why? Because this approach allows me to capture and analyse my emotional response to situations and events. Plus, I’m interested in this approach and I wanted to introduce this research method to my students.

Autoethnography incorporates the personal (auto) the cultural (ethno) while describing and analysing (graphy) a phenomenon. I applied an autoethnographic approach during my PhD journey as a means of self-reflection. My first autoethnographic publication entitled Reflections of a black woman practitioner-researcher was published in the Qualitative Research in Psychology Journal, February 2018. It was a special edition and by chance, I came across the journal’s advert seeking abstract submissions. It’s important to understand your purpose and to grasp opportunities when they arise. I will explain why.

I can recall fond memories of my numerous conversations with my supervisor Dr Gail Lewis about the use of poetry in qualitative research. While she would remind me to focus on my academic writing, I was determined to incorporate poetry in my research as data.

At the time autoethnography was not widely recognised as a methodology. I guess because it challenges canonical ways of doing research. My supervisor, in advising me to remain within the traditional academic writing style, which follows a particular tone, using formal and objective language, was fulfilling her duties to ensure my thesis was at the appropriate standard, but she encouraged me to investigate the application of autoethnography in qualitative research. I am forever grateful for her approach to guiding me. I respected her because she was direct, culturally aware and racially yoked. Even now three years after being awarded my Doctorate, when I write I remember her advice.

For those who me personally, it is no surprise that I remained steadfast in wanting to incorporate autoethnography into my study and I was determined to find a way. I had to investigate the validity of the approach and teach myself about the application of this method in qualitative research. The true essence of being a Ph.D. researcher. My tenacious attitude paid off. I incorporated autoethnography by including a self-reflective chapter within a psychosocial framework. I also begin every chapter of my thesis with one stanza of a poem, which I had to justify, but in doing so, I felt empowered because I taught myself about autoethnography.

Through my lecturing, I aim to instill in my undergraduates a hunger to explore and analyse what they are being taught. I encourage them to be independent learners and researchers. I want them to question concepts and theories, think about their application and how they can be used to analyse their own work-based practice.

Ethnography, in my opinion, is a perfect tool to help undergraduates to apply reflective practice techniques.  My aim in writing this post is to raise the profile of this methodological approach. What I enjoyed about delivering the autoethnographic session was drawing on my own work, the article I referred to earlier and contents from my book entitled Black women prison employees: The intersectionality of gender and race.  By using my own work I was inspiring my students. This is the main reason why I chose to complete my Ph.D. and decided to lecture part-time. My purpose is to make a difference in higher education and inspire others to do the same. But most importantly, having the autonomy and confidence to be authentically BLACK and WOMAN!