Hitting the Ground Running: Interviews, Transcripts, and International Exchange

After studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa (!) in June, it has been go go go for me being back in the good ol’ Burg.

I did have a fascinating addition to my research in Cape Town actually. I got the change to take classes with Lwando Scott, a sociology lecturer, at the University of Cape Town. After doing some digging into Scott’s work, I found his blog on queer consciousness in South Africa. After reading a couple of entries, in addition to being enthralled with the material we covered in class, I decided I had to see if I could meet with him. On the last day I was in Cape Town, Scott and I sat down at Hard Pressed Coffee in downtown Cape Town. Over coffee and a bagel, we talked about the history of LGBT+ issues and activism in South Africa, the intersections of protests against racial inequality and the fight for LGBT+ rights (fun fact: during the student occupation protest at UCT, they implemented gender neutral bathrooms), the question of patriarchy in post-apartheid South Africa, his interest in the sociology of the body, and more. From this conversation, I learned about how intersectional these issues are with each other in South Africa; you cannot talk about LGBT+ individuals without the context of their race, class, and gender. This conversation has given me a better understanding of the importance of taking a holistic view of a situation when investigating history and political situations. Additionally, his work on the sociology of the body fascinated me, because we started talking about it in class. It includes questions of what is a normal body; what can a body do, with whom, and where; and how does a government restrict a body and why. Scott and I talked about how theory on the body, in a sociological sense, has huge impacts on LGBT+ history and other related studies, because conflicts often occur in the context of assumptions about one’s body. I am so fortunate to have been able to talk with such an interesting and insightful individual. After talking with my advisor Prof. Leisa Meyer about this, she suggested that maybe in the future there could be an international conference to facilitate cross-national dialogue about LGBT+ history, experiences, and current issues.

As I said, since being back, it has been non-stop. I met with Prof. Meyer, reached out to a lot of potential interviewees, started working on transcripts, and have already completed one interview. I definitely did not expect to get going this quickly, which has been a little overwhelming but very exciting. One important thing I learned since being back in Williamsburg, besides how HOT it is here, has been how time-intensive transcribing is. On my first day doing transcription, it took me over 2 hours to go through 8 minutes of audio. With most interviews lasting over an hour, it looks like that will be what I spend most of my time working on. But I am hoping to get as many of the interviews I complete this summer transcribed by the time classes start (wish me luck).

As I have been reaching out to people and thinking about my larger goals with my research, I have decided to interview W&M alumni from a range of ages, with the hope that I will have some sort of comparative knowledge about what it is like to be an LGBT+ student at W&M across time. My first interview was with someone who graduated this past May and my second interview will be with a graduate from the 1960s. I decided from the beginning of this project to let my interviewees determine the thematic course of my research, so I look forward to how different alumni have experienced W&M differently at different times. We shall see if my research themes become more focused as time goes on and what research questions get answered.

To read Lwando Scott’s blog and to learn more about Scott, visit: http://queerconsciousness.com.



  1. aswhitlock says:

    Your time, research, and discussions in Cape Town sound absolutely fascinating! As a history major, the idea of seeing how alumni have perceived the College at different times in history seems key to understanding William and Mary’s history, as well as the overall time period as well. How did you go about coming up with and selecting potential interviewees?

    I am looking forward to reading more of your posts!

  2. darrienspitz says:

    First of all, I am incredibly jealous you have conducted research in Cape Town as I hope to travel to South Africa soon! More importantly, I see your research being incredibly important for William & Mary LGBT+ students. I hope you’re able to focus this research on the intersectional importance (i.e. relating to race, gender, and class) of how LGBT+ students are treated at William & Mary. This research should be conducted at every school around the world. I would love to learn more about what you discover.
    If I may ask, what inspired you to conduct this research other than your insightful professors and travel experience? I look forward to learning more.

  3. sirodriguez says:

    Hi Darrien! Thank you for your kind words! I have been working on oral histories for the past year with the W&M LGBTIQ History Project, which has been established for the past couple of years. I wanted to get more experience with oral histories this summer, now that I have more time to. I am thinking that I might want to continue this type of research past graduation. Additionally, I think oral histories are very important ways of sharing information and recording history that gives you different information than written sources. Queer oral history is especially important because it allows for individuals to share their experiences in a format that they have typically been disempowered in, such as through written sources. Oral history for any marginalized group I believe, if done right, allows the individuals to be re-empowered through the telling of their own story. Additionally, oral history allows one to access more personal testimonies and stories, which I believe are important for more critically understanding the LGBT+ experience in the U.S. That’s just a few of my motivations. Thanks!

  4. sirodriguez says:

    Hi Abby! I definitely agree with your point about alumni; definitely gives a lot of insight. I have had A LOT of help with finding interviewees from people in the W&M Alumni Association and other connected individuals. I am trying to get as diverse a list of interviewees as possible, varying across age, race, gender, sexual and gender identities, etc. Granted, sometimes I can only talk to the people who respond to my emails and have time to talk, especially given the time constraints. So I’ve had a lot of help and a lot of luck with finding individuals to talk to.