Zoe Vongtau: Lightbulbs and Webs

An edited meme I feel represents the light bulb moments I had this past month

In the past 2 months, I have tumbled, erased, and drafted my way through the Gallatin Africa House Research Grant project. With each forum, blog, and personal journal entry post I found myself in a drastically different place from the last. I started this summer (well technically this year, as I’ve been thinking about ideas for this project and grant since February 2020) with what I believed was a clear presentation of a research question. In reality I had terms, concepts, and questions that needed to be linked in a way that made sense outside of my brain. Black August, a dedicated period of the study of the Black radical tradition, brought me a lot of clarity in not only my research project but also my Gallatin concentration and future path. This month I was able to finally connect directly with practitioners of principled and radical psychology that reenergized my commitment to the research project and the power of psychotherapy. Also in the past month, I found a copy of my late aunt’s thesis and was astounded by the similarities in our academic and social interests. Her analysis of the connections between colonial domination and contemporary health disparities in Nigeria lit several lightbulbs for me, but just reading her words was inspiring on its own. My discoveries, conversations, and efforts to synthesize the materials I read this past summer landed me with a strong sense of the connections and conclusion I had been searching for. July and Black August led me to propose the vision of prison industrial complex/penal abolition as an offering to the issues Nigerian psychotherapists are facing and addressing. I am still in the process of writing and forming this thesis and question, but I am feeling the most confident and secure in my project that I have felt all summer. I do believe that being back in New York had fueled that sense of peace and knowing, and fully welcome both and whatever the rest of Black August will bring me.

My late aunt, Hajara Usman’s thesis

One thought on “Zoe Vongtau: Lightbulbs and Webs

  1. Zoe! I find it comforting that you’ve also found yourself in completely different metaphorical places and ideas for these past few months. I feel the same way. I just found a scholar, Henry Jenkins, that made me feel SEEN in a way that I haven’t before, and this discovery comes late in the game (but better late than never!). I think I’ve been really hard on myself going through the messy process of that is research (let alone research in a pandemic) because I’ve kept going down rabbit holes and dead-ends.

    It’s so cool to hear that the scholar you’ve found is also familial. If we’re talking to previous scholars to ground our research and push forward the “conversation”, it’s super cool that your interests are also shared. Happy writing~~~

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