Our new monthly ‘SPERI Spotlight’ series will showcase the work of a researcher at SPERI to give an insight into their research. We begin the series by talking to Dr Ellie Gore, ESRC White Rose Postdoctoral Research Fellow at SPERI.
What does your research focus on?
My research sits at the intersection of development studies, political economy and gender and sexuality studies. I’m interested in examining the relationship between axes of social difference (in particular gender and sexuality) and the mode of production, i.e. capitalism. Key research questions that interest me are ‘what is the nature of the relationship between gender, sexuality and capitalism? And how do gender and sexuality mediate labour relations, and vice versa?’
My doctoral research looked at LGBTQ rights in Ghana and the political economy of development. I was particularly interested in examining how development funding mechanisms and interventions around HIV affect local forms of queer politics.
What led to you becoming interested in these issues?
My research interests are informed by the politicisation of homosexuality in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past two decades. There has also been a growing interest within development spheres on questions of sexuality and gender, which had previously been marginalised within development discourse. As a queer and genderqueer person myself, I also have a personal interest in the politics of these issues, and in how queer oppression relates to questions of political economy.
What are the challenges involved in researching these areas of interest?
There are several challenges! One is clearly about my own positionality as a researcher, and questions of what it means to research marginalised or subaltern groups as a white, British researcher from the global North. It is important to reflect on how power inequities and your own ways of ‘knowing’ have been shaped by such differences.
There are also practical challenges involved. It is important to conduct research in a way that is ethical, and to minimise harm to those it is intended to benefit. It is vital not to reproduce extractive, exploitative research.
Another challenge is making the case for why gender and sexuality should be considered as important aspects of political economy.
What are the key future research questions in your area of study?
Key future questions are ‘how does sexuality relate to experiences of labour exploitation?’ which is a relatively under-researched topic area. Questions of gender and vulnerability have been explored within the literature, but I think the relationship between sexual orientation and gender identity and experiences of labour exploitation in the global economy needs further investigation.
What have been the most surprising findings in your research?
Whilst poststructuralist approaches to sexuality have typically focused on questions of identity, becoming, and difference (and on critiquing ‘universalist’ models of sexual rights and identity), I found that the struggle for queer liberation in Ghana is intimately connected to the struggle for economic justice. As such, I’ve found that it is difficult, if not impossible, to examine questions of queer oppression and LGBTQ rights without also examining questions of labour, production, and social reproduction.
What does being a member of SPERI mean to you?
Being a member of the SPERI team is invaluable to me, both in terms of my own intellectual development and because of the practical support offered through the mentoring I have received. SPERI is a supportive and collegial environment, and it has been fantastic to work alongside Genevieve LeBaron on the ESRC Global Business of Forced Labour project, and with Liam Stanley on the PREPPE project.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a book project, based on my doctoral research on queer activism in Ghana. Alongside this, I’m continuing to develop my research into gender and labour exploitation in the global economy, following my collaboration with Genevieve on the Global Business of Forced Labour project, through a new GCRF funded study of gender and forced labour in Ghana. This will be based at SPERI and is due to start later this year.