In todays post, Beth W. Kamunge tells us a bit about her research and future plans. Beth is a 3rd year doctoral researcher at The University of Sheffield’s (UK) department of Geography. As one of our new and emerging scholar award winners she also gives potential future applicants some advice about submitting for the award in future!
A bit about Beth’s research
The original contribution to knowledge that my research project offers, is the empirical and embodied exploration of black women’s food experiences, which have so far been relatively ignored by feminist scholars. At the beginning of my project I was curious as to what new insights black women’s food-related experiences could provide to contemporary debates in food politics. I spent a year having food-based dialogues with 12 self-identifying black women in Sheffield (UK). These dialogues included shopping for food together mostly in City Council markets, street and farmer’s markets, and independent grocery stores; sessions of cooking together lasting between 3 to 7 hours at a go; sharing meals; and hanging out at allotments for participants who grew their own food. In the end I found that there was a lot to be gained in how we think about ‘local’ food as a pathway to social justice; the devaluation of food knowledges; and kitchens as alternative spaces for knowledge production. Studying food is by definition an interdisciplinary project. Whilst I have drawn upon and contributed to feminist geographies of food, I have also brought in work from Black-Feminisms, Philosophy, Sociology, Politics and Literature.
I am at the point of my PhD where I am not thinking too far beyond just finishing it! I have on the whole quite enjoyed doing it and I am looking forward to seeing what my thesis looks like at the end. Beyond that point, I would like to have an academic career, still around Black-Feminist food politics. I would be particularly keen to focus in on one of my PhD chapters and construct a research project around it. I have been heavily involved in the Critical Race and Ethnicities Network (CREN) in the last 3 years. We have held symposiums, workshops and two conferences. Currently we are doing a 3-part Black-Feminisms seminar series (May, June, and July 2017) to mark the end of CREN. But I would be interested in carrying out anti-racist feminist activisms in different iterations throughout my academic career.
Advice for future applicants to the New and Emerging Scholar Award
I think it’s been really helpful for me to think about academic work as being at various stages of being ‘unfinished’. I was having a conversation with Dr Derrais Carter (Assistant Professor, Portland State University) where I said there was something I hadn’t applied for, because I didn’t feel ‘ready’. And their response was “the ellipses of our work is always implied”. That’s something I found really helpful in dealing with perfectionist tendencies. Also, at the beginning of 2017 I read an article (via Twitter) of a writer who made it their goal to receive 100 rejections. To be honest it did sound extremely bizarre (who wants to get rejected 100 times!), but after reading it, it made a lot of sense. Their logic was that to get 100 rejections, means they have submitted their work at least 100 times rather than being too afraid to try. The piece had resonance because it was about not waiting to do that one ‘perfect’ application, but sending out 100 ‘good-enough’ applications and seeing what happens. In the end they say they got to 47 rejections, but with I think 6 big acceptances including a prestigious fellowship, book contract and so on that made it all worth it. So that’s how I made my intention for 2017 to be the year to “submit” my work even when I don’t think it’s ‘perfect’. So far, I have submitted 10 things, 3 of which were rejections (and 1 of which had really good constructive feedback that I was quite pleased with) but 7 acceptances including 3 awards that I wouldn’t have gone for otherwise. So, I guess it works! Just go ahead and submit.
On that note, I would like to thank Gender Place and Culture for the award and the opportunity to present my research at the upcoming RGS-IBG conference in London (August 2017).