Experiment 1: On academic research standards and feminist strategies

I totally couldn’t find a pic to go with this post, so you get a pretty house wife in contemplation.

A couple of days ago I told you about my conversation with DivaCup. This is a bit of a follow up.

A crucial point in the discussion with Diva International is that they have wanted me to supply consent forms, ethics approval and wanted to know if I would be adhering to any specific set of departmental academic research standards. I had to think about those things for a bit before continuing the conversation, and this is why.

I have no problem with the consent form. I even think it would help the experiment as a whole by providing a clear demarcation of the boundary between its beginning and end, a sort of temporal wall between the so-called real world and the experiment-world. Initially I was wary of the ethics approval, but with the recent turn of the project I have come to understand how important this is – more on this shortly. It was the whole research standards thing I was really unsure about.

As an independent researcher, and non-affiliate of a specific discipline,  Moist So Moist is defined as a research project, but not one that functions within specific disciplines; rather it operates on the margins of, and between them. Because of this, the project is not rooted in a specific set of academic research standards, but rather blends a myriad of ideas to form a solid research base. I’m pretty sure I could create an experiment that lay neatly within the bounds of sociology or narrative psychology or maybe anthropology, but thinking through this scenario I’m very reluctant to do so for the following reason, and I really find this very important:

Moist So Moist is a project that is as deeply engaged in researching ways of producing knowledge that challenge norms as it is in unearthing the knowledge itself; we are looking to build a feminist methodology at every step of the project. This means thinking about the implications of adhering to academic research standards, and I think my problems with these standards, however useful they may be to general/normative academic production, is that they would force the project to work within a tradition that is (dare I say it?) fundamentally patriarchal. This is really my deepest concern about academic research standards: that it challenges Moist So Moist’s ambition to engage critically with the structures it exists within. Now, I understand that gender studies, women’s studies, LGBT studies and those types of interdisciplinary, feminist disciplines can to some extent accommodate experimental approaches to knowledge production, but they remain tied to the academy and its very normative research practices.

To frame it in a positive way, Moist wants to ask both specific and abstract question; How do menstruators (re-)experience their bodies when living them in conjunction with menstrual technologies such as The DivaCup? What does it mean to have a menstruation body that is mediated through a DivaCup? What does it mean to remove oneself from the tampon/pad industry and enter into a different menstrual economy? What is the stuff and matter of menstruation and how do we give it voice?

But also, what does it mean to narrate the self? What is reality and what is fiction? What worlds does The DivaCup create? What knowledge does it hold, how does it intra-act with the human body? What could a feminist methodology look like, what could it give us or hold us back from?

I don’t think I’ve ever really spilled the theoretical beans on the blog before, so for those of you wondering, this is what I’m into:

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, both together and separately. Eve Sedgwick, Carol Mavor and Samuel R. Delany for beauty and imagination, and a bunch of gay studies stuff that I read whilst living in Warsaw and trying to figure out how to turn fag hagging into a profession. Donna Haraway (always, always Donna Haraway), Karen Barad, Queer and feminist Theory and the ideas of relational aesthetics (Nicolas Bourriaud and critics) and art methodologies more or less generally because they provide the possibility of asking open-ended questions.

At the moment I am also particularly inspired by Cynthia Huff’s “That Profoundly Female, and Feminist Genre’: The Diary as Feminist Practice”and the work of Astrida Neimanis, lecturer at the Gender Studies Program at the London School of Economics, who I met at the Feminist Materialisms conference and have just had the pleasure of seeing speak at the Entanglements of New Materialisms conference.

So there. Ethics forms it is, I guess. I’ll keep you posted.

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