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” 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.