‘My Research’ is a new feature that aims to introduce and summarise the research of Postgraduates and Early Career Researchers within the field of American and Canadian Studies. Sit back, and get to know some of the craziest, challenging, and rewarding places researchers have been taken to…
Name: Juliet Williams
Research Level: MPhil/ PhD
Institution: University of Winchester
(If current PhD student):
Year Started: 2014
Predicted End Date: 2018
You’re in an elevator with a stranger for one minute. They ask you to explain your research, what do you say?
I’d probably say something along the lines of ‘my research examines constructs of racial and gendered identity in contemporary American popular cultural texts with a focus on the influence of postfeminist and ‘fourth wave’ feminist discourse’, and hope that that captured the complexity of it all!
What got you first interested in your research area?
When studying for my undergraduate degree I was particularly interested in modules that focused on identity, and more specifically constructs of gender and femininity. In my final year thesis I explored constructs of femininity through a postfeminist lens, which led me to want to examine further the whiteness of feminist discourse and the impact of this on constructs of racial and gendered identity.
Which moment has been your proudest so far?
Starting my research degree was a pretty proud moment for me as it was such a huge step up, especially because I went straight from undergraduate to research degree. I’m sure there will be many more proud moments to come the further into my research I get.
Would you like to share any ‘blank spots’ in your field – questions which you think are important but which are under-researched?
The ‘gap’ for me has always been the omission of issues of race from interrogations of contemporary postfeminist discourse. Race often seems to be engaged with only as a side-line issue. While I think culturally this is beginning to be challenged, I’m not sure the same is happening in academic research and scholarship.
If you turned your research project into a popular non-fiction bestseller, what would the title be?
That’s a really hard question! I have no idea…
Which field of research (or whose work) is your greatest inspiration for your project? How does your research stand out from this?
Conceptualisations of postfeminism kick started my research journey and there are many scholars who I could refer to here. For me, research surrounding postfeminism and postfeminist popular culture has continued to omit issues of race or examine the diversity of women’s experiences of oppression and discrimination. My research tries to re-ignite conversations surrounding intersectionality and examines constructs of racial and gendered identity in popular culture in order to do this.
Your Relationship with Your Research
What have you found the most challenging?
I work part-time in learning & teaching development and do some part-time teaching on top of my PhD research, so for me the most challenging thing by far is managing my time.
Have there been any moments where you’ve ‘fallen out of love’ with your research?
I don’t think I’ve had any moments so far where I’ve fallen out of love with my research… Luckily!
What’s the craziest place your research has taken you to so far?
I’m currently examining very contemporary pop culture case studies and keeping up with the contemporary is definitely a challenge. Overnight the direction of my research can change. I’m not sure that’s necessarily ‘crazy’ but it keeps me on my toes!
What is your number one motivator?
Probably my own determination and interest in the field. But closely followed by career opportunities.
How do you overcome the dreaded moments of darkness in PhD research?
My family and friends have been a huge support (probably unknowingly) and I think that has always enabled me to pick myself up and ‘get back on the horse’. Sometimes downtime with my favourite people is all I need.
What tips can you give for a work/life/research balance?
Because I wear so many hats in terms of my research and work I have to plan my time really carefully. The one thing I always do is schedule in time out for myself – if I didn’t I would burn out quickly!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
PhD complete, research in the field on-going and career established!
What role/career are you aiming for?
I work in learning & teaching enhancement when I’m not doing PhD research or teaching, and I’m very passionate about enhancing the student learning experience. Ideally I would love to teach within my PhD field/ discipline, combining my love for teaching with my research interests.