Thinking Through Purpose

This is all based on a textbook called “The Basics of Communication Research” by Leslie A. Baxter and Earl Babbie, 2004 Wadsworth.

What interests me personally about this topic?

I am interested in this topic because my experiences within the subculture have been both “liberating” in some ways, and “constraining” in others.  On the one hand, it has been a creative outlet, express my gender in a way that would have severe consequences in my everyday life (ie, the aggressive hell-spawn/Cycle Slut), provided social opportunities/allowed me to access sexual partners (I explore sexuality as a consequence of a particular sexualized self-presentation, and sometimes experience eroticism during the performance as well). It’s been a creative outlet and escape from the pressures of everyday life.

It’s also constraining inasmuch as it is a fairly straight-forward-ish presentation of sexuality – some of the situations we construct rely on the tired male dom/female sub trope. The Cycle Slut was bad-ass, but only because she used her sexuality, not because she say, received an Honors Degree in Women’s Studies (ha!).

I want to know how other women/performers understand and percieve their identity/role as a burlesque performer. I see both opportunities for freedom, but I have a certain “gender-consciousness” that some women may not share (or at least not in the same way). I percieve a number of limitations with what women can achieve politically doing this, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important on a personal level, even if symbolically what burlesque performers do can send mixed messages.

So I want to explore a phenomenon, but I also want to understand what “burlesque” means to the women who do this and within the community. What these performances mean outside the community is beyond the scope of this project (how the “subculture’s” and the “cultures” symbols interact. 😉

Onwards towards the purpose of my study. From the Methods book I have at hand, it seems as though I want to describe. To an extent, a portion of my work involves relating the stories the women tell to me, and transcribing verbatim.

However, I also want to understand the discourse/narrative they use when they talk about their lives and the subculture. I want to view their worlds as they see them, and draw out something interesting about this perspective.

Unit of analysis: I am analyzing individuals in order to say something meaningful about a group.  I am not analyzing “burlesque subcultures” as a group, and comparing them to other social groups.  Since I only have a few people in my study, I can’t generalize about all burlesque dancers in Calgary either.

Time dimension: This is cross-sectional, and I don’t need to worry about causality or making inferences over time.

Space Dimension: The field independent/dependent question is tough to answer for my study.  Feminist/post-modern epistemology tends to assume that historical/social/cultural space always matters to research outcomes, so if that’s true, we’re always in the “field”.  My project is similar to a field-dependent one in that I am doing a qualitative/somewhat-unstructured interview to elicit more “natural” responses, not the types of responses someone would give to A Researcher or Psychologist (or some other person with authority).

However, my project is dissimilar to “field-dependent” research in other ways. Researchers working from feminist/post-modern perspectives don’t use ideas like “nature” to justify interviewing in a particular way, but appeal to notions of “equality” instead.  In addition, we’re like experimental researchers (field-independent ones) in that we try to “control” the interview situation for power differentials that might affect the interview process and lead to the interviewer’s agenda dominating the show.

So I’m not really sure how to answer this question.  To an extent, I want to do this in an “anthropological” way, but I am using a technique (interviewing) that is more obtrusive/controlling of outcomes than field research tends to be.  However, I am using the least-obtrusive interviewing I can (semi-structured).


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