Reflections: my research experience

by Raina DeFonza

The Project Beginnings

Professor Adeline Koh approached me last summer with the proposition to work with her on developing a digital resource on postcolonial studies. The concept was that I would conduct an individual research project on a topic of my choice within postcolonial feminism and develop a section on a web page that would serve as the digital resource. I have always enjoyed research and critical thinking, so naturally I felt that the project would be a wonderful opportunity for me to learn and grow as a researcher.

Because I have deeply rooted interests in environmental issues, I set into the project with the goal of examining the correlations between postcolonial feminism and environmentalism in Africa and India. My project began with a very broad lens. I started with basic literary reviews of postcolonial issues, annotations of scholarly sources and writing various think pieces and reflections on my research. In the beginning I worked to lay the groundwork for more in depth research, working towards a better understanding of the discourses and attitudes surrounding postcolonialism and postcolonial feminism. There were many news ideas and attitudes I had to become adjusted to, as well as language, vocabulary and the writing styles of the humanities and social sciences.

The Development

As I gained confidence in my basic understanding of postcolonial feminism, my research lens naturally narrowed and I could focus on topics that drew my interest. Surprisingly, I found myself gravitating towards not environmentalism, but rather the discussion of the kitchenspace in postcolonial and third world nations. My research took a turn down a completely unexpected path, and I started analyzing articles about the kitchen and cooking in these places.

This development and change of direction, though unexpected, was very organic, as was the development of much of my project. I believe it is important to recognize this as an inherent quality of the research process. I followed this new found path, and conducted research on the connections between postcolonial women and the kitchenspace, exploring how the space has served traditionally as a space of oppression and isolation for these women, but has also become a place of social, familial and financial empowerment.

As I delved deeper into my research, I found compelling connections between postcolonial kitchens and American kitchens. So I followed this path. I began to research and write about these deep connections I was encountering between the two kitchenspaces/models of feminism.

Where I am in my Research Today

My research took me through South America and Mexico, to Nigeria and the United States. Today, I am finishing up a discussion on the kitchenspace in the U.S. as well as working through the remainder of the content and information I have accrued through my research to thoroughly develop this digital resource.

The Research Experience

As I stated before, I have always been interested in research; I enjoy finding the interesting and complex connections between sometimes equally complex ideas.

However, the research I conducted for this project was different from any research I had previously done in my undergraduate career. The material was not only more difficult but the research itself developed into something surprisingly intensive. Sometimes it was difficult wading through the scholarly research, getting hung up on unfamiliar words or concepts, or simply getting lost in the format and impossible dialogue. I often became frustrated and overwhelmed.

However, my advisor Professor Koh was there to provide guidance and support, and to remind me that I will not always understand everything the first time through.  I have come to determine that the motto of my research project is: Breathe. Reread the material. Rework the ideas.

Besides having learned a tremendous amount about postcolonial feminist theory, I believe that my technical skills have developed as well. Having encountered a breadth of information, my critical analysis and organizational skills have improved tremendously. I learned how to conduct scholarly research in the humanities, as well as how to sift through the myriad of data that is available.

This project has been the most valuable part of my undergraduate studies. I believe the skills and knowledge I have acquired through our research will carry on into any field I wish to pursue in my graduate or professional career.

I transferred to Stockton after spending two years at the much larger Rutgers. The reason for the transfer was rooted in my desire for more personal attention from my professors and more opportunities for independent research. I believe that this project embodies all of the hopes I had for my undergraduate career and then some.

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