ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Research from Afar

Reversing the Gaze

If the global South has for long been studied from afar, given its colonial history, what knowledge can reversing the gaze from a distance produce?

 

“Hello, can you hear me?” I ask, staring into the screen. A few seconds later, a mid-shot of my interlocutor against what is immediately recognisable as a graduate student’s sparse living quarters jerkily appears on my screen. “Hi! Hello! Yes, I can hear you. Can you hear me?” they ask peering into the screen. Satisfied that all is well, we get straight to the job at hand. The conversation flows, and even as the person and their ideas come into focus, the screen itself recedes into the background. For a moment, it appears as if we have managed to forget that we are separated by many time zones, national borders, and visa regimes.

My doctoral research explores the ways in which knowledge travels by focusing attention on the figure of the Indian doctoral student engaging in feminist knowledge production in United States (US) universities. It engages with the ways in which questions articulated and explanations sought are informed by the site of enunciation—how what is asked is determined by where it is asked from. While I had plans to interact with my interlocutors in person, when researchers from US universities make their annual summer trip to their home/fields in India, these meetings did not materialise, partly due to the pandemic. I could have applied for a grant that facilitated my travel to and stay in a university in the US, but, to me, the distance afforded a point of view that was unlikely and generative. This is not a positivist valorisation of distance to ensure “objectivity.” Rather it toys with the question: If the global South, especially India, has for long been studied from afar, given its colonial history, what knowledge can reversing the gaze from a distance produce? And so, I adopted what can be described as a patchwork of methods—online interviews, opening up my research field to include online acade­mic conferences, research publications, and social media texts.

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Updated On : 6th Jan, 2022
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