Yes, this semester has seen me embark on my Masters thesis. I went to a workshop the other day to help prepare for a possible tilt at my uni’s heats of the Masters version of 3MT (3 Minute Thesis – a competition that has traditionally been run for PhD candidates.) I can’t compete, because I am taking D (youngest daughter) and Frenchie (exchange student living with us) to Wellington for a long weekend, and the heats are one of the days I am away. To say I am relieved is a bit of an understatement! I am not good at public speaking, and as you all know, I am also not good at keeping things brief! But, I thought I would go along to learn a bit more about it, and push my boundaries. I will need to hone these skills as I progress through my thesis, and beyond. First question as I sat beside a Masters candidate (in German) was, “so, what faculty and department are you from?” And second question was, “so, what is your thesis topic?” Hmmm. I don’t have a title. And I barely have a long synopsis. So, I stuttered through a brief outline, and the reply, “how is THAT Geography?”
It is a common reaction. I am a human geographer, and even fellow grad students, from the same faculty don’t get it. But I will try to outline it here.
I am interested in what happens when we label people. And people don’t fit in those boxes. Or do for a while, then outgrow them. Or someone tries to “re-pot” them in another box that is uncomfortable, and is a bad fit.
That kind of thing.
So, my original proposal was to do with what happens when plural, or fluid sexualities unfold in a previously imagined “hetero” monogamous long-term relationship? Kind of a bit autobiographical (my parents) as in, a look at betrayal, and hegemonic ideas about what marriage and monogamy look like in Western contexts. I wanted to see what happens when we look further down the line from some of the literature on “falling in love and committing to one person of the opposite sex.” And the spatial and material arrangements of that. As in, does it mean automatic separation, or can the space be (re)configured somehow? What about when there IS separation, and children are perhaps involved, and the experience of both them and either one or the other, or both parents confronting “matter out of place” in a sense – in that maybe some familiar objects are relocated, maybe in mum’s new house, and it feels disconcerting (or whatever?) This seemed like a way of unpacking what society says about romantic relationships, and challenging it in a bounded framework of sexuality. I then thought, geographically, about space and place, and thought, “yay, I can use some of my existing online networks, to drum up interest in participation.”
But last Friday, I had a meeting – only my second, I am only in my third week of this – with my senior supervisor (I have two, and love them both!) She has pointed me in a slightly different direction. She now has me reading the literature and unpacking spaces of home, love, intimacy and kinship. And here’s the kicker. She wants me to ground it (as after all, it is a one year project, not a PhD) in a specific geographical context, eg, my local region.
At first, I was a little taken aback. Oh no! How will I recruit participants? This is a little personally exposing, a bit “close to home” – good ol’ geography! But, I am open to it, I get what she is suggesting, and I agree. Start at the beginning. Start at how we conceptualise love. Then watch it implode, lol.
So, in order to try to make sense of how to approach this, I am reading like a madwoman, and I thought a brief post here might help me start to play with the working title, and start to arrange some order of approach. At the moment, it is all swirling around in there in a big tornado of thought, with no sequence. I am not a particularly orderly person, so it’s like herding cats. And I know my working title is nowhere near what I want it to be, and it needs to be far snappier, but I will record it here to put a peg in the ground. A marker of the origins of this thesis. I do it very nervously, as it is so far from what I need it to be yet, and I am struggling with the idea of a “fixed” sexual identity versus a fluid one – and how to incorporate that properly in the title without contradicting myself with, “okay, so one of these people has a static sexual identity, but that is not the case for everyone….”
Queering long-term ‘heterosexual’ romantic relationships: querying the effects of a romantic partner’s fluid sexualities on constructions of monogamous love in (insert geographical region(s) here.)
Aaaargh, I HATE it!
(Press publish, ewwwwwwwwww)