The Art of the (Research) Reveal

Reflecting upon how my research has developed and how conversations with my cohort have progressed throughout the Brackenridge experience, one of the most helpful strategies I have found for better communicating my own research to someone outside my field is being intentional with which core concepts one chooses to explain, and how. 

If there are many moving parts of your research, as I’m sure is the case across any field, selecting what is most important, and most effective, for someone to understand about your work is a daunting task. What’s been majorly effective for explaining my own research is identifying and stripping away all the details, methodologies and contexts that are auxiliary to someone aiming to take away just the crux, the main gist of my work. For example, the biopolitics of gender/sexuality is a major intellectual genealogy from which my own work draws and situates itself within; however, instead of explaining in depth the ins and outs of Foucauldian critique and various philosophical definitions of “the body,” when I explain my work on trans/queer (counter)visualities to someone unfamiliar with these discourses, I typically streamline my explanation by focusing on specific concrete examples to demonstrate my larger point. So, for example, one of the ways I define the types of trans/queer countervisualities I am interested in is by the example of the contemporary drag queen Willow Pill’s performance on Rupaul’s Drag Race in which Willow lifts up her dress to reveal a replica of her own face resting between her legs. I use this moment of Willow Pill’s “reveal” as a metaphor to explain the stakes and argument of my larger project: in the contexts of a hegemonic order of visuality, from surveillance to anti-trans/queer violence, Willow “reveals” not the truth of sex/gender which this order demands to see, but instead rejects this intelligibility completely, and further, looks back at and challenges the very ways of seeing which produce her.

Screenshot of Willow Pill’s final “reveal” on the finale of Season 14 finale of Rupaul’s Drag Race.

Turning toward how such research communication strategies might be helpful along my pursuit of academia, actively practicing these skills has already been and I’m sure will continue to be incredibly crucial and productive. I’ll undoubtedly need to be able to effectively communicate my work not only to people with differing (and even contesting) theoretical backgrounds in my own field, but if I hope (I do) to put my work into more public contexts, I will absolutely be drawing and building upon the insights I’ve gained through Brackenridge.

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