To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.

– George Orwell, Collected Essays, Vol. IV. In front of Your Nose

In his blog post The Unbearable Whiteness of Mesearch Victor Ray describes the situation where the work of scholars of colour is dismissed as being “me studies” or “mesearch”. He then says:

White scholars do mesearch all the time. In many disciplines, that is simply called the canon. Claiming that mesearch is a particular issue for scholars of color demonstrates a profound lack of self-awareness on the part of researchers in the social sciences and humanities.

I’d never heard the neologism mesearch before[1] but it strikes me that practice-as-research lends itself to mesearch both elegantly and terribly. The elegant part is that practice requires commitment and (self-)absorption (particularly if the practice is a solo one); it demands profoundly critical reflection on what is happening; it is a constant struggle to see something that is so close.

The terrible part of mesearch – and I understand this to be a common problem in practice-as-research[2] – is a failure to engage deeply with the community of artists and scholars within which one is working (either directly or indirectly). It is a failure to acknowledge that research – by definition – happens in relation to others. A key task for any practice-as-researcher is to readily acknowledge how their work is participating in these various communities of practice and scholarship.

  1. It was in Eric Anthony Grollman’s post that I happened across the term and also the link to Victor Ray’s blog post.  ↩
  2. But certainly not in research to do with discrimination, racism or that focuses on communities of colour that Victor Ray is referring to.  ↩

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