Tearing at the Fabric

Of the space-time continuum

“So, what is your thesis on?”


Well, hmmm.

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.

pray the gay

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.”

Go me!

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)


16 thoughts on ““So, what is your thesis on?”

  1. Well, it took me a day to gather up enough brain cells to metabolize this post, wow. You are one complicated lady diving into a complicated subject. I’m sure it will all fall into place for you because, you know, you are freakin’ smart. I hope the close to home geographical element will work out in the end and narrow the context and not be uncomfortable. This fluid sexuality concept is an interesting one… did you get the idea from Rog? Just kidding. I hope you are done with all this research stuff by the time I come visit you! I will need your undivided attention so we can GO PLAY!!! ❀

    • Weeeell. Just out of a supervisory meeting and I think it has changed a bit again. The sexuality part is being pushed further ‘back’ and I am looking at geographies of breakups really. The material and conceptual makeups of ‘home’. Yes. I will be concentrating on breakups ‘due to’ changing sexual desires. Gah. I hate beginnings. When you are trying to work out what the hell you are looking at!

      • And Ha. Ha. Ha. Is my reply to did I get the idea from Roger πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰. Sorry readers. Both of you. A little in joke between Kat and me. Roger has questioned my sexual identity at times. Pretty fab, huh?

      • I like how your thesis is morphing… sounds right up your alley. Thank goodness for those supervisors or who knows what you would have written about. πŸ˜‰ Unfortunately I think BE would be kind of thrilled if I displayed signs of bi-sexuality. *sigh* xoxo

      • BE might be surprised that bisexuality is not quite what his fantasy suggests. It might be that you fall in love with someone else. And want lots of ‘private’ time, both sex and just ‘other stuff’ with this person. How disappointing, BE!!

        Yeah. I didn’t really want to look at ‘just’ breaking up. It feels like the specificness of changing or hidden sexual identity is more interesting. But many of the reasons for them asking me to change tack slightly are practical. Our human ethics committee will have a conniption as it is. ‘Feelings’ are scary! And recruiting participants is a factor in the short time frame. I think they feel I might get ‘there’ if I originally cast the net a bit wider, and then hone into the ‘reasons’ and emotion and affect involved on changed spatial materialities. I understand. But am being mindful that this is MY thesis, and to stand strong if I disagree strongly. So far I don’t. I understand why and where they are gently herding me πŸ˜€

      • Wow, I didn’t even think about an ethics committee at that education level. Goes to show how out of touch I am. Nothing would be off limits if I was on an ethics committee… but I do understand the sensitivity of the topic in terms of recruiting participants. What an interesting learning curve.

        And yes, BE, not many people can have an 8 year sexual relationship without forming other attachments. We are not dolls to be played with. He’s one of a kind, sorta, well unfortunately not really, but you know. Ugh.

      • Hehehe. Ethics applications are the pits! I have done two previously. Basically it is pretty rare for them to approve something on the first submission, even when supervisors have had a look and tweaked stuff. I think I got my student exchange one approved on the third submission earlier this year. And I was sure I had covered all bases. They always come back to you with something to think about. I kinda like the process in a very masochistic way! This one will be tricky because of the sensitive psychological material. I have to have a comprehensive list of ‘help’ contacts listed. And anticipate where anger and sadness can lead people and discuss how I will manage and show care for any potential participants. My junior supervisor did her PhD on people who moved after the Christchurch earthquakes. And got a very frightening, suicidal phone call during it. She is only just starting to discuss it now, years later. Very shaken. She dealt with it calmly and suggested where the caller could go for help, imploring them to reach out to a professional. Then ran to her supervisor, who is a very experienced human researcher, and her supervisor admits she was also floored and very disturbed that she hadn’t protected G somehow. And the poor person who made the desperate phone call to a geography researcher. So we are extra careful not to do harm.

      • Wow, yes, I see. It is difficult to know how people will react. Trauma is a bitch, you know… there will always be outliers. The whole thing sounds scary and exciting all at the same time.

  2. Paula!? Wut?? Could you rewrite this using finger painting in primary colour?? Holy Moly sister, they make the brains bigger down there or what? Honestly you amaze me. I barely understood what you wrote but I see you all over it, you will kill this, the personal aspect will ensure that you do, and how exciting you may learn things about yourself too! x

    • Ummm. Nope, owlie. Hehe. That is kinda my point. Trying to explain and simplify! So I can understand it! The fab thing about good supervisors is that they are helping me break it down. Into bite-sized pieces. Today’s mission: write the objective and three research questions to hang the whole thing on. Submit to supervisors electronically because I will miss this Friday’s meeting due to being in Wellywood. Awright?

  3. I think it’s a fabulous and fascinating concept. I hope you will blog more about that. If you do end up being able to reference people in countries other than yours, my history is geographically interesting when it came to courtship, marriage, and divorce. I am not sexually fluid, but seeing the way things are going… Lol.

    • Will keep you in mind, caroline! It seems every meeting takes me further from my original interest. Seems I am now looking at challenging the spatial, affective and material aspects of ‘home’ after a breakup. Kind of a longitudinal ‘answer’ to the recent geographies of love literature. I feel like the bad witch at the baby christening!

  4. I think your subject is really… Down to the heart of it. Instead of it now being about your mum and dad, it’s sort of about what happens to people if they make the break- which is exactly the snag you didn’t want to
    Embark upon because of what your children would encounter. Holy bananas way to flip the script….

    Ps- I love you and think you’re a star

    • Hey, CR. It has morphed somewhat. I am 3/4 of the way through my first draft of an ethics application. The working title is now: ‘Home is where the heart is broken’: (shit!-at-the-hairdressers-and-forgotten-the-rest πŸ˜‚). It is about reconfigured and reimagined home and embodied spaces after infidelity-prompted relationship disruption. What happens to spaces and our emotional response(s) to them after the trauma of betrayal. Ye gads! I want to include those who stay as well as those who split. My senior supervisor had suggested ‘dissolution’ – but I emailed her to suggest ‘disruption’ as a less legal and more inclusive approach. Especially as I will be recruiting from therapists’ offices. I imagine most in relationship therapy will be still together. She agreed enthusiastically, and thought it a more ‘human’ approach, reflecting that an affair doesn’t always mean an end. Or a complete end. Etc.

      You all moved in yet?

      And, you know, blushing. Honestly, there are some serious kick arse chicks on the interwebs!

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