Why I Do Shame Research
Updated: Feb 15
I do shame research because it allows me to stay in my own lane, while getting into many conversations that I’m interested in, and at once. It’s where and how I’ve done “the work” the last 8 years.
Shame is not only an emotion but affect. It literally is tied to, “all that is,” to use Deleuze and Guattari. IMO the French philosophers use cultural appropriation to define affect as a multiplicity. (When white boys do it, it’s “philosophical”, “theory”, “scholarly brilliance”, “no one else does it better”. But when the Indigenous and animist spiritual communities they stole from do it, it’s considered “subjective”, “not factual”, “demonic”, “illegal”, “primitive”, “evil”, “mad”).
Said differently, shame is multi and interdisciplinary. It requires many conversations at once in order to be understood well enough for it to not get in our way. At the centre of shame is the conversation of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, to use bell hooks. Prentis Hemphill, Melissa Harris-Perry, Sara Ahmed, and Brene Brown have also assessed shame through an intersectional framework.
You can’t talk about shame expensively without including: white supremacy, patriarchy, community, culture, capitalism, intersectionality, critical race theories, Indigenous ways of knowing and being, appropriation and co-option, anti-oppression, anti-racism, disability justice, truth and reconciliation, transformative justice, Black liberation, history, geography, trauma, migration, philosophy, technology, science, mathematics, engineering, religion and theology, social justice and humanities, psychology, decolonization, Spirit, queer time and space, ancestral trauma and healing, self-love, pride and resistance movements (think Black Panther, Nation of Islam), metaphysical, spiritual, literature (think Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Jamaica Kincaid’s writing), the individual, the mind-body, mental health, physical health, domination, delusion, fear, vulnerability, inferiority complex, blame, projection, aggression, anger, rage, neurology, biochemical, pyscho-somatic wellness, pain, chronic pain, suicide, addiction, murder, maladaptive mechanism, structural and systemic oppressions, planetary shifts/paradigms, physics, genetics, water, the land/earth, space, the deep Ocean, electro-magnetic field, Spirit and Underworld, Skyworld, liminal space, third-space, collapsing time and binaries, transnationalism, globalization. I could go on. You get the gist.
I will find a way to connect shame with everything and anything, which is how I define affect. See why it’s taken 8+years). Shame is a major key. Healing shame is a major cheat code. Especially when white peoples do that work enough for Black people to get free, cast away, and redirect shame to its rightful owners.
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Until next time, in solidarity.
Photo Cred: Dorothy Attakora-Gyan
Image Description: A Black woman stops to smell the flowers. She is wearing a purple top and Black yoga pants. This photo was taken in Venezuela in 2008.