The Research Project


If you expected a lengthy description of my Phd research project, I am sorry to disappoint you. I don’t want to spoil my blog just yet. But for the curious person, here is my PhD project in a nutshell:

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My PhD research project is a social psychological investigation of  what women of colour in the United Kingdom and Germany do with their hair and why they do it. Hence, the project is concerned with the significance and meaning of Black hair as evident in the representational and identity work of women of colour in particular, and the wider society in general.

This research project bridges research traditions by bringing together a qualitative research approach with a big data approach. Specifically, I use in-depth interviews, ethnographic observations and large data sets from social networks to understand how women of colour make sense of themselves and others – the focus is on the role of hair.

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A word on terminology; In most of my writing I use the term ‘women of colour’ rather than ‘B/black’ or ‘mixed-raced’ women. There are several reasons: First, I do not want to draw a line between ‘black’ and ‘mixed-race’ women. In acknowledging their shared experienced I chose ‘women of colour’ as an inclusive term. Second, not every women that I talked to agreed with being identified as or identifies herself within these terms. Finally, ‘black’ and ‘mixed-raced’ are socio-historic categories. In recognizing the danger of reproducing ‘race’ through research (Howarth, 2009) and by challenging the content of historical social categories (Gillespie, Howarth, & Cornish, 2012), I decided to speak about women of colour in an attempt to not perpetuate the idea of a ‘colorline’ (DuBois, 2008/1904) through my research project.

Further references:

Du Bois, W. E. B., & Edwards, B. H. (2008). The souls of black folk. Oxford University Press.

Gillespie, A., Howarth, C. S., & Cornish, F. (2012). Four problems for researchers using social categories. Culture & Psychology, 18(3), 391-402.

Howarth, C. (2009). I hope we won’t have to understand racism one day: Researching or reproducing race in social psychological research?. British journal of social psychology, 48(3), 407-426.

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