Learn about Dr. Bhattacharya’s qualitative research in the field of decolonizing and gain insights into balancing research, mentoring, and supervision.
In the realm of research, it's a well-known fact that qualitative research holds a distinct position as it is complex, theoretical, and abstract. As we delve deeper into this field, we realize the depth and the labyrinthine structure it offers. Our latest podcast episode provides you with a journey through this maze, guided by Dr. Kakali Bhattacharya, Professor at the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies and Education at the University of Florida.
Decolonizing in Qualitative Research
Dr. Bhattacharya's work in the field of decolonization in qualitative research is not just impressive but also groundbreaking. Her passion was sparked by Ruth Behar's book, Translated Woman, which opened her eyes to a different dimension of qualitative research.
“She (Behar) was talking about how this process of translating somebody's stories translates the storyteller as well, and the stories that she was sharing were so powerful and also so reflective of the social conditions that affect certain groups of people in a certain kind of way that I was moved. I was in tears, and I didn't understand that that was research,” explained Dr. Bhattacharya.
As Dr. Bhattacharya started work on her dissertation, she was greatly influenced by Linda Tuhiwai-Smith's work on decolonizing methodologies and conversations with her colleague, Violet Johnson. After being encouraged to decolonize her mind and methodology, Dr. Bhattacharya dove into reading post-colonial scholars’ work. This research led Dr. Bhattacharya to the term “D/colonizing” to explain the complex movement of transnational diasporic groups between the present and utopic dreaming.
“I felt like decolonizing work is for a transnational diasporic group of people is always a shuttling. It's a shuttling between where we are now to where we might want to imagine, without being in any relationship with any colonizing structures, discourses, materiality, so that utopian dreaming as a decolonizing strategy and then current negotiation was how I was situating that idea. And so I slash the word and call it D-slash-colonizing,” said Dr. Bhattacharya.
Dr. Bhattacharya continues on to describe the complexities of the phrase D/colonizing.
“I've kind of looked at like what's in the slash, what's in this in between places, what's in the movement back and forth, because there is no more fluid and no more pure colonizing spaces and no more pure decolonizing spaces. So, we're always moving through multiple types of consciousness of our own colonization and our own resistance to it. So, I wanted to make it messier than like a clean, pure thing. So that's how I got into the D-slash-colonization,” said Dr. Bhattacharya.
Old and New Challenges of Qualitative Research
As we delve further into the conversation, Dr. Bhattacharya shares the challenges and goals of qualitative research.
“Linda Tuhiwai-Smith first alerted me that research is an exploitative enterprise. It's a colonizing enterprise. It has history of doing some very bad things. You know, mostly from Western researchers, and in qualitative research particularly, there are some new movements that have started that I haven't been able to align myself with,” said Dr. Bhattacharya.
To ensure she conducts her research in an ethical way, Dr. Bhattacharya developed a guide for her research relationships.
“I really needed to have something that I could use, and it could also illuminate a path of ethics, of relationality with the people that I work with as participants or co-researchers,” said Dr. Bhattacharya. “I have argued that you posture to give up your will to know. … You're not owed anything. You enter the space with humility to learn what is being offered to you by folks, but you're not owed anything."
Mentoring Insights – Complete with a Guidebook
Continuing the topic of a guide for herself and others, Dr. Bhattacharya gives us a glimpse of her unique mentoring approach, which encourages students to center their identity while fearlessly breaking the traditional rules of dissertations. She has penned a book, Fundamentals of Qualitative Research: A Practical Guide, 2017, that serves as a profound resource for readers interested in applying qualitative research in their work.
“One of the things that I want to do when I mentor graduate students is to make sure that ... their voice is not silenced but, you know, sharpened, amplified and brought to bear on their work instead of telling them that they need to rigidize themselves into a certain academic voice,” said Dr. Bhattacharya.
Regarding her book, Dr. Bhattacharya explained that she wanted to give people who knew nothing about qualitative research a practical guide with exercises that, by the time they finished the book, they would have a decent understanding of how to meet qualitative research in their own work.
Balancing Research, Teaching, and Supervising
The final segment of our discussion focuses on Dr. Bhattacharya's personal journey juggling research, teaching, and supervising. She discusses actively working to improve her balance more recently due to an autoimmune disease and learning to tune in to her body and energy.
Dr. Bhattacharya describes giving all of her time to writing, researching, and helping students – occasionally to her detriment. Now, she has designed her classes in an efficient way that allows her to assist students while not burning out.
Chasing Your Purpose in Qualitative Research
Throughout the episode, Dr. Bhattacharya stresses the importance of unlearning and relearning. She shares that her research has evolved over time and has taken a deeper dive into D/colonizing. She emphasizes the importance of centering one's identity, unlearning traditional research rules, and fostering relationships with research participants.
“First, figure out why are you drawn to this work. … Not to just say that because I want to save people, but really figure out like when was the first time you became interested in this? Why are you interested in this? And try to figure that out. Not for academic purposes, but for the purpose of your being. ... Don't chase currency, chase your purpose,” concluded Dr. Bhattacharya.
The beauty of this episode lies not just in the insights shared but also in the candid experiences and practical tips that Dr. Bhattacharya offers. She shares her journey, her struggles, and her triumphs – making it a truly enlightening exploration. Whether you are a student, a researcher, or a professional, this episode promises a deep understanding of qualitative research and its intricate nuances.
Embark on this journey with us and let Dr. Bhattacharya guide you through the intricate maze that is qualitative research in Episode 56: Chase Your Purpose, Not Currency.