Searching and Researching

The folks at the Black/Land Project are deep in research. We’re working with collaborators at SUNY-New Paltz to turn the dozens of interviews we have gathered into data to describe the complex experiences, self-definitions and desires that form black relationships to land.

 Lake Minnewaska, NY

Lake Minnewaska, NY

We began a recent work day with a walking meditation around beautiful Lake Minnewaska about the meaning of research. What does it mean to turn stories into data? What does it mean to create research that might be used against us? How do we produce research that doesn’t reinforce the idea that blackness is solely a condition of deprivation or damage?

Black/Land believes that our communities should be able to produce and control information and knowledge about the things that are important to us.  Because of that, we’re wrestling with some heavy ethics. How would you answer these questions?

 Research Team (L to R) Kondwani Jackson, Brian K Jones, Allison Guess, Eve Tuck. (Not pictured: Mistinguette Smith)

Research Team (L to R) Kondwani Jackson, Brian K Jones, Allison Guess, Eve Tuck. (Not pictured: Mistinguette Smith)

  • From the Tuskegee syphilis experiments to Henrietta Lacks, research in our communities has often deceived and hurt black people. Are there ways to do research that do not cause harm?
  • Our colleague Eve Tuck writes: “the time has come for our communities to refuse to be complicit in our further categorization as only damaged, as only broken.” How can our research tell a story that includes both recounting black pain and assertions of black sovereignty and self-determination?
  • Are there some stories that don’t belong in research, stories we should not tell?  Which ones? Why?
  • Why should we turn our stories into research, anyway? To whom does such “research” belong?