CONVERSATIONS with black women working in sTEM

โ€œChallenging power structures from the inside, working the cracks within the system, however, requires learning to speak multiple languages of power convincingly.โ€ โ€“ Patricia Hill Collins (2013: 28)

My work is embedded in intersectional feminism and critical race theory -- as a result it is a form of intellectual activism. Intersectionality is the analytic approach of understanding the multiple identities individuals inhabit within social groups. It provides a space to examine the particular types of stigmatisation and oppression faced by people who are disadvantaged as a result of a profusion of injustices. Intersectionality thwarts any tendency to view a category in essentialist terms. It actively seeks to break down the problem of only recognising the most privileged of a persecuted group. It is distinctly different from white feminism, in that it rejects the notion that gender oppression is a stand alone category. The term intersectionality was coined by Black legal scholar Kimberlรฉ Crenshaw. The concept has been used by Black women since the time of slavery as a means to describe simultaneous oppression -- the triad of race, class and gender. It is a tool that has, and continues to be, used by Black feminists and activists to confront the fact that the analysis of gender oppression has primarily focused on white women, and the analysis of racism has primarily focused on Black men. 

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My doctoral research will be lead wholly by the life stories of Black women of African and Caribbean descent, at PhD level and above, engaged in higher education (HE) science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as told to me by them. The project is one of solidarity and resolution. The study seeks to explore three parts of the same story: 1) being a woman working in HE STEM, 2) being a BME woman working in HE STEM, and 3) being a Black women, within the BME category, working in HE STEM. Its aim is to create a space where resources can be developed, revised and shared so as to collectively build strategies for survival, resistance and transformation within HE STEM institutes for Black women. The project also endeavours to support Black women currently journeying though the undergraduate and masters framework of science, and Black girls who are considering a career in STEM. The study will draw upon Sara Ahmed's analysis of the 'wilful subject', Patricia Hill Collinโ€™s account of โ€˜outside within', Miranda Frickerโ€™s exploration of โ€˜testimonial injusticeโ€™, Maria Lugones' 'playful โ€œworldโ€-traveling' and Dorothy Holland's 'figured worlds'.  

I will implement the ethics of care and accountability when developing my methodological framework. This is crucial to my research, as the topic is motivated by a necessity to confront epistemic and social injustice. My goal in listening to the experiences of the women who choose to participate in the project, is to provide a faithful representation of their life stories. I am not striving for an objective account, rather an account that they recognize as true. Furthermore as a responsible researcher exploring the stories of these women, I must address my own personal accountability and how that plays a role in my research. It is imperative that I not only meet the standards of vigilant qualitative research, but also my own personal standards โ€“ it must be both a truthful account of the experiences of the participants, and a useful tool in the fight for epistemic and social justice.

For more information on the research methodology click here. 

For frequently asked questions click here. 

Download the project poster here.

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In the spirit of STS and its interdisciplinarity, I am being co-supervised by sociologist and theorist of social justice and science education Dr Emily Dawson (emily.dawson@ucl.ac.uk) and philosopher of science Dr Chiara Ambrosio (c.ambrosio@ucl.ac.uk)

If you would like to take part in the project or have any questions and/or suggestions regarding my research, please donโ€™t hesitate to contact me on: katherine.cecil.15@ucl.ac.uk, or drop me a message below. 

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