Session 17: Panel – Mind the [gap] – emotionality, social change and research cultures

Ruth Pearce, Mark Carrigan and Lyndsey Moon

Drawing reflectively and auto-ethnographically on our particular experiences of trans and asexual communities, we argue that changes within the organisation of both academic life and sexual communities are widening a series of [gaps] in research life.

We argue that an interrogation of such changes serves to illustrate a whole series of [gaps] in the research lives of those who study sexuality and gender. [Gaps] exist:

Between research as public scholarship and the private commitments underlying it

Between researchers and the communities researched

Between researchers and other researchers

Between researchers and traditions of inquiry other than their own

With reference to our own experiences, we argue that research culture must become mindful of these gaps – and elaborate itself in a participatory and grassroots manner – in order to adequately respond to the changing environment within which contemporary scholars of sexuality and gender undertake their work. We suggest that our answers to the core questions of reflexive social research need to re-evaluated in light of such transformations:

What is the point of our research?

What do we want to change with our research?

How available is our research to the communities being researched?

How relevant is our research to the communities we are researching?

What power relationships do we stand in with the communities being researched?

While some of the issues we discuss are perhaps more broadly applicable, we believe that sexuality and gender research – with its complex and ambivalent relationship to our everyday lives – tends to complicate rigid dichotomies of insider/outsider, reflexive/unreflexive, emotional/cognitive. Moreover, it is within this area that digital technologies are radically altering the (imagined?) communities within which sexual identity repertoires are constructed and critiqued.

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