Dissertation Profile – Funny Conversation with Myself

The Title: Why is White Always Considered Right? An Exploration of Intersectionality in the Contemporary Race Relations Debate.         

Texts Read: 10 (and a whole multitude of articles and interviews)

Dissertation Tutor: The Righteous Dr Veronica Barnsley

The Stress Level: 95% 

Tell me about your topic?

My dissertation is exploring intersectionality and the pervasive white gaze. What first attracted me to this concept was the all-encompassing nature of what it can achieve in practice, it is the root solution to solving oppression and discrimination. Intersectionality is the analytical approach to understand how different aspects of a person’s social and political identities combine to create different modes of oppression. In other words, you can be discriminated against for multiple parts of your identity, and this is not well incorporated and reflected in our laws and structures.

I am drawing on two of my favourite texts from last year, Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other and Michaela Coel’s BBC Show, I May Destroy You. For exploring a contemporary Black and British context, they were two of my favourite pieces of literature from the last few years that I have been exploring. The way that structural oppression and the white gaze operates in the UK is in a subtle and precarious manner, with our staunch colonial past and refusal to investigate it in the present – it is a fascinating topic to explore.

Despite all of these well-chosen words, I would be kidding if I said I knew exactly what I was talking about.

How is it going?

Hahaha ha! I must be a comedic genius.

In honesty, the dissertation could be going better. I have decided to push back my deadline, with the help of the English Department and tutor to be able to complete it to a standard I am happy with.

It was not the image I had set in my head for finishing my dissertation, I would dream of an unseasonably sunny day in Sheffield, a thick wad of paper in my hand and a shiny University crest emblazed on the front. In this reality, I am sat in my basement bedroom, in a thunderstorm and a global Pandemic still working overtime under our noses. Not the most foreseeable future.

But it is okay. This project has taught me that academic work does not have to be linear, and it does not have to be perfect. I am excited to finish this dissertation in the knowledge that I worked hard on a subject I am deeply passionate about; with the organisation and skills, I will continue to use throughout my life.

What advice would you give to students starting their dissertation?

Write about your Passions. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Trust the process, even if it goes wrong.

I wanted to write about how a dissertation can continue, even after a turbulent road that feels as if you can get thrown off at any minute. I am still stumbling down this path. It is cathartic to write this conversation to myself and to help other students, now and in the future who feel pressed under the weight of their ideas. You have got this, trust me.

-Hannah (Third Year, English and History)

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