When we read research about sexual and gender minorities, it’s my belief that we have an ethical responsibility to engage it critically. I personally find queer theory to be a useful lens for this kind of critical thinking about research. I have drawn up this list of questions to suggest a “queered” way of looking at the literature in this area.
Questions for “Queering Research” (inspired by Kevin Kumashiro, in his article “Uncertain Beginnings: Learning to Teach Paradoxically,” and indebted to Riki Wilchins’ Queer Theory, Gender Theory: An Instant Primer):
– What assumptions are the authors making about the people who are the subjects of their investigation?
– To what degree do the authors appear to have consulted with their subjects before or during the process of developing their assumptions, hypotheses, methods, goals, and plan of research?
– Who is included in this research? Who has been excluded?
– What questions were not asked this research that might have been relevant or illuminating? Why might those questions not have been asked? What beliefs, values, or ways of knowing were privileged by the research?
– What issues, concerns, or complexities did this research ignore? What hidden messages does it convey by what it included and what it left out?
– What might it have been like to be a participant in this research? How might different participants have felt, based on their intersecting identities? How might they have felt required to respond, or not respond? For whom would this research have felt confirming, or disconfirming, and why?
– What claims about truth does this research make? What ideas does it challenge, and what ideas does it leave unchallenged?
– What purposes, structures, or institutions are served by the conclusions the authors have drawn from their research?
– How does this research support purposes, structures, or institutions that are already part of the powerful status quo?
– How does this research challenge, undermine, make complex, or “queer” the dominant assumptions about the subjects of the research?
– For whom would this research and its conclusions feel confirming, or disconfirming, and why?
– What effects might the conclusions of this research have on the lives and relationships of its subjects? What effects might the conclusions of this research have on the families of those who are its subjects?
– What assumptions are the authors making about those who will be reading their research? Who do they believe is “in the audience”?
– Are the authors writing as if their subjects make up part of the audience for their research?
– What assumptions do you have about the authors themselves, their qualifications, methods, purposes, or contexts? What level of authority do you tend to automatically ascribe to them?
– If this research were framed differently, what different knowledges might have resulted? What other voices might have been heard?