Researcher Positionality

Researcher Positionality

This article addresses my personal experience at a conference dedicated to the goal of decolonizing the academy of African Studies. Though this conference hoped to create a forum for discussion that would deconstruct colonialism, conflicts that arose between conference attendants served instead to entrench colonial myths and white supremacy. This article addresses the impact of settler colonialism on African Studies and stresses the importance of expanding our knowledge of colonialism in the world. This paper argues that in order to fully contest colonialism in any discipline, academics must acknowledge the role of settler colonialism in constructing global perceptions of colonization.

This working paper addresses some of the ethical and methodological concerns I confronted as a non-white woman conducting research in post-conflict Rwanda. In this paper, I address the wanting diversity of perspectives with regards to reflexivity, positionality, and risk in the field and expose some implications of conducting research in politically charged environments for non-white, “brown,” and/or non-western researchers. I also introduce perspectives that may influence the ways in which they gather and analyze their data when researching political violence. The paper looks at how I navigated my field experience as a Western female researcher of the African diaspora. I argue that underrepresented researchers and the study of violence can benefit from broadening the conversation about researchers’ identities and how they relate to the field, their research subjects, and their data.