RPP #9: End of Term Mentor Meeting

I met with Prof. Matlon on Friday,  Dec 6th at 10 am via Skype. The meeting was about 40 minutes long as we discussed next steps, my chosen methodology rationale and reflecting on the past semester.

First, we discussed some of the apprehensions I’ve been having with drafting and organizing my Final Narrative in terms of making ‘final’ decisions especially in regards to choosing a small-n methodology. Prof. Matlon was able to reassure me, yet again, that the research and topic I am pursing will likely change and that these decisions are laying grounds for next semester but should in no way seem ‘final’ or have to be perfect.

Then we discussed my literature review and methodology. Prof. Matlon was able to provide additional/ supplemental literature that may be helpful in rounding out my conceptual buckets but also making sure that the literature and theory continues to connect to methodology.  Then we were able to delve deeper into my rationale and work out the logic and justification that I want to emphasize in my choice for small n in explaining women’s constraints in political context and state’s policy toward son preference. Touching upon what is necessary in a designing but also in a methodological mindset creating this “black box” for my choices.

In the concluding part of our meeting, I mentioned next steps and that for next semester I was considering conducting research of my own such as survey questionnaires that would require human subjects. Prof. Matlon had agreed that this type of research could be interesting but emphasized caution.  She mentioned that given the tool box and knowledge we are given as  undergraduate researchers  that there are inherent limitations and that in becoming involved with subjects there could possibility of enacting forms of harm and injustice if not conducted properly so these will be things that I will have to heavily weigh and consider moving forward.

Prof.Matlon mentioned her own hesitation in being able to conduct with human subjects and to do so in a manner that may be damaging or harmful to the subject themselves because of my own lack of experience and the sensitivity of son preference. This will require preparation and something to again heavily consider and discuss in the future with bot Dr. Boesenecker and Dr. Esser as well as more research into IRB and the very procedures that would be necessary.

In conclusion, this meeting was a good evalution of next steps and a reflection on this past semester, in regards to my own evolution during this semester as a researcher and starting to take ownership in my research an continue to be flexible. Although this past semester has been challenging, the work with my mentor and the evolution of my research has made this year worthwhile and I look forward to see how I continue to grow and push myself in producing work that I will be proud of.

Research Portfolio Post #2: Mentor Meeting

My Olson faculty advisor is Professor Jordanna Matlon, who has a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California Berkley and focuses on Black Masculinity. She explores gender and society in an urban setting, particularly, the relationship between gender, race and capitalism and many of her fieldwork was based in Cote’D’ivoire.

I met with Professor Matlon this past week (Wednesday 9/4), for about an hour (2:30-3:30) discussing mostly her work and my research interests and questions. Together we collectively brainstormed on resources, research approaches and challenges as well as discussed scholarly debates. Prof. Matlon was very helpful in outline my interests and constructive in how to create and understand research perspectives.

In the first part of our meeting, I mentioned the issue I was having in choosing between Transcendental and Situated Knowledge. As a sociologist, Prof. Matlon suggested I “throw it[transcendental] out the window” in conveying that Situated Knowledge, in respect to what I was doing and what she had found in her research, was a better fit. In that way, my question was not answered but I was given insight into differing author’s own perspective on the types of research approaches that we learned in class and how they can differ within different fields of study.

We also discussed the use of narratives to get to my idea of “women’s decisions”. In discussing our subjects, her’s being men in Cote’D’ivoire and mine being mothers, we talked about the importance of how such narratives are framed and being aware to avoid Western constructions of saviorism in developing regions. A book she recommended and one that I consider relevant to my research, Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses by Chandra Talpade Mohanty, highlights this construction of the “3rd World Woman”[1] as helpless and lacking agency. The book outlines how to engage in gender narratives that avoid assumptions and legitimize women in their own environment and situations. This conversation was incredibly important for me to have with Prof. Matlon because I want to be intentional and aware of the decisions I’m making throughout this process so as to contribute to the new thining and perspectives rather than reinforce certain types of thinking.

Toward the end of our discussion, Prof. Matlon and I discussed the limitations and constraints of research projects , especially, on the undergraduate level. I expressed my concern about such challenges and Prof. Matlon emphasized that learning to navigate within these limitations and using constraints as an opportunity for better research. Her advice was to remain analytical and strategic as well as critical in terms of using primary resources.

I think my biggest challenge moving forward and lesson from speaking with Prof. Matlon, is this understanding of the literature not only surrounding my exact topic but of every aspect and angle. The creation of my literature review is not just on the topic but the surrounding debate on narratives, on women, on infants, etc that will ultimately contribute to my overarching puzzle and topic. I  need to start to dissect my own topic and the many facets that I want to add and the narrative that I want to create.


[1] Talpade Mohanty, C. (1984). Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses. Boundary 2, 12(3). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1302670995/.