Book Review: Transnational Black Feminism and Qualitative Research: Black Women, Racialization and Migration by Tanja J. Burkhard

In Transnational Black Feminism and Qualitative Research: Black Women, Racialization and Migration, Tanja J. Burkhard explores transnational black feminism as a qualitative research framework that centers the narratives of black women. This book is a valuable resource for those committed to conducting more equitable research that disrupts extractive modes of knowledge production, writes Lydia Ayame Hiraideand will particularly enhance the understanding of Black women researchers who seek to conduct rigorous yet sensitive qualitative research among and within our own communities.

Transnational Black Feminism and Qualitative Research: Black Women, Racialization and Migration. Tanja J. Burkhard. Routledge. 2022.

In Transnational Black Feminism and Qualitative Research, Tanja J. Burkhard centers the stories of black women as they are told by themselves, while offering Transnational Black Feminism (TBF) as a qualitative framework for telling and analyzing these stories. Over 75 pages, this short text makes a theoretical, empirical and methodological contribution to the study of race, gender, migration/borders and intersectionality in the social sciences. It is written in a clear and engaging style, providing an excellent overview and introduction to the transnational qualitative investigation of black feminists. The framework is offered as a way to undertake research with people we know and love, without compromising the quality of research or the important relationships that support us.

The first two chapters of the book focus on the main methodological and theoretical challenges and opportunities that arise from conducting research using a TBF framework. At the heart of this is Burkhard’s proposal of TBF as a research framework that helps researchers undertake research within their own communities while addressing the local, national and global contexts that frame and shape lives. black women across time and space.

Fundamentally, TBF is a method of analysis and storytelling that contextualizes “black women’s ways of knowing by bringing them to the forefront of the qualitative research process” (3), while examining structural, historical, spatial and affective forces that shape the complex of black women. , changing lives. In his use of the frame, Burkhard encourages us to think both beyond and beyond the borders of nation states, sewing threads between the continents of Africa, the Americas and Europe in order to contextualize and analyze the lives of transnational black women living in the United States.

Three black women smiling and talking

Image Credit: picture by Christina @ wocintechchat.com

Fundamentally, the framework emphasizes how multiple spaces simultaneously configure what we do with ourselves and others. Using his empirical data, for example, Burkhard shows how ideas about what blackness is are culturally, spatially, and temporally contingent. TBF thus pushes back against the idea that the United States (or any state) should be the main or only relevant place for black feminism – or that black feminism and black/African women located in the United States do not are not always shaped and shaped by other parts of the world. The framework therefore disrupts methodological concerns with the nation-state as the primary unit of analysis. Instead, TBF offers a transnational analytical that works to consider the relationships between different spaces and places to shape the diverse experiences of black women.

After setting the TBF as a qualitative framework, the last two chapters of the book present and analyze the empirical data collected for this research. It is a series of interviews conducted with seven black women with whom the author has more or less intimate personal relationships, as well as reflexive reflections by the author herself.

At the heart of the book’s empirical discussion is a sensitive and respectful engagement in telling the stories of these women. Burkhard weaves the words of his research participants into the fabric of his astute political analysis, while drawing attention to the emotional complexities of conducting qualitative research. After all, as she points out, the “data” she collects are the personal stories of real people. And indeed, there are parts of their stories that can often be difficult, traumatic, and moving to tell and listen to. From this perspective, qualitative inquiry turns out to be a complex affective affair that requires sensitivity to how ethics, power, and reciprocity frame the way research is conducted.

The final chapter, which specifically addresses issues of reflexivity and reciprocity, is perhaps one of the most valuable parts of the book for those currently conducting or looking to embark on the direction of their own qualitative research, particularly with racialized communities. Burkhard insists on the “need to have a critical reflection on the commitment to solidarity, the formation of coalitions and […] reflect on what exploitation and reciprocity might mean in their particular contexts” (60). This means moving away from extractive modes of research where the research encounter begins and ends with the interview.

Burkhard describes how his own reciprocal ethics in the research conducted for this book manifested in activities such as English tutoring, providing emotional support, and supporting asylum claims. But she notes the danger that researchers are putting their own health and well-being at risk by undertaking this work in a spirit of reciprocity. This certainly addresses broader concerns about much of the additional unpaid work that women disproportionately undertake both in academia and somewhere else already. However, this does not detract from the value of this book. So, as a qualitative reader and researcher, I was curious about some of the strategies Burkhard put in place to navigate this aspect of his research. How exactly does a researcher set these boundaries? Who decides what they are and according to what criteria? What resources have proven to be important in supporting a healthy dynamic of reciprocity? These are recurring questions for many researchers working on projects based on an ethic of reciprocity.

Not only is it important to consider how qualitative research is conducted, but also how we tell the stories entrusted to us as researchers. Burkhard’s sensitivity to black feminist storytelling can be seen in her attention to what she calls the poetic of black women’s lives. She literally creates poetry from the words of the interviews she conducted. Drawing on the content of the interview, she assembles the words of her multiple participants into beautiful poems that exert an emotional edge while shedding light on the harsh policies that frame the lives of transnational black women in the United States.

Incorporating poems into the text of the book works very well because the poems add texture and color to the stories that are central to Burkhard’s political analysis. The poems speak vividly of the fundamental things that move us and make us. But they do so without encroaching on or detracting from the incisive analysis of how research participants reacted to politics of race, gender, class, nationality, etc. Constructing poetry from the content of an interview is a curious and invigorating way to approach qualitative data. It would have been interesting to know more about how the creative process of constructing these poems works, defining it more as a potential tool that other researchers could draw on.

In this book, Burkhard makes a compelling case for adopting TBF as a method of qualitative inquiry, showing how TBF considers the importance of context, intersectionality, self-reflexivity, and dynamics. researcher-participant power. Above all, Burkhard does not hesitate to bring his full personality as a researcher to the text and to research. Reflecting on her own personal story and experiences as a black German woman and former international student, she shows how the differences and similarities she shared with her research participants – who were also black women but from different backgrounds – colored the types of conversations they had. in their interviews. Bringing these aspects of personal narrative into the discussion illustrates the value of engaging in a solid practice of reflexivity from both a theoretical and methodological perspective.

The book’s particular attention to the particular ways in which researchers’ own positions shape and frame qualitative inquiry adds to the feminist insistences that knowledge is “situated” – that is, the knowledge we produce is always located within and therefore shaped by the specific geospatial, temporal and cultural context of both the researcher and the research participants. Given TBF’s attention to the relationships between space, power, and knowledge production, this concise book is an especially valuable resource for scholars committed to conducting more equitable research that disrupts academic traditions of knowledge production. exploitative and extractive knowledge. For Black women researchers in particular, this text enhances our understanding of how to conduct rigorous yet sensitive qualitative research among and within our own communities.

  • This review first appeared in LSE Review of Books.
  • Banner image credit: Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com

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Note: This article gives the point of view of the author, and not the position of the USAPP – American Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics.

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About the Examiner

Lydia Ayame HiraideGoldsmiths, University of London
Lydia Ayame Hiraide is a PhD candidate in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her doctoral research uses an intersectional feminist framework to examine contemporary environmental activism in the UK and France. She can be found on Twitter at @LydiaHiraide.

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