(The) Margin(s) Speak! A Multifaceted Examination of Practising ‘Men who have Sex with Men’ Development in Bangkok
In this study, I explore the experiences and understandings of twenty-seven participants involved with ‘men who have sex with men’ (MSM) development interventions in Bangkok, seeking to better understand the complex realities that emerge in practising MSM development. I endeavor to interrogate the development field’s limited understandings of sexuality as well as the discourses present (and absent) in existing Queering Development research. By acknowledging my personal journey in and through this re-search, I also examine authentic ways-of-being a queeresearcher, noting the challenges I faced and power I discovered in re-searching and re-presenting my own work. Ultimately, I explore the link between the paucity of local developing queer narratives in Queering Development and the limited space students have, to be visibly queer in mainstream theses – to do this I use the metaphor of ‘the margins’. In framing this re-search, I draw nourishment from queer, critical, poststructural and Participatory Action Research epistemologies. Methodologically, I carried out semi-structured interviews and focus groups, as well as using other tools such as mapping and story writing. I also spent time ‘hanging out’ at both Rainbow Sky and Bangkok Rainbow, enabling both a deeper appreciation of the work carried out by the organisations as well as providing an opportunity to gather materials. The generation of data did not cease once I left ‘the field’; I continued to produce autoethnographic texts including poetry and a re-search performance which I used both as a method of enquiry and re-presentation of this study. This multifaceted approach enabled diverse questions (emerging across disciplines) to be addressed in my work. To re-present my analyses of participants’ accounts I have celebrated different ways-of-knowing re-search. I have used poetry and consciously performative writing, visual art (including graffiti) and performance alongside traditional scholarly prose. This approach enables multiple voices to emerge all over the page, questioning the hegemony of the bound, straight-lined thesis and the ‘legitimate’ knowledges it generally contains. I argue that queer postgraduate students may be able to open spaces to produce authentic work, despite pressures to perform straight research texts. Yet, pressures to conform to traditional understandings of theses may be painful reminders of their own positions in academia and society. Overall, my study offers intimate, multifaceted perspectives on the agency of MSM development practitioners in Bangkok and my own experience of finding power through queeresearch. I hope it will contribute to more nuanced understandings of local practitioners of MSM development in Queering Development literature, and to scholarship on queer postgraduate students’ experience of re-search more generally.