‘Here and There, Then and Now’: Envisioning a Palimpsest Methodology

Wilson Kwamogi Okello, Antonio Duran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Black feminisms challenge Western conceptions of linearity as an optic for understanding the experiences of Black folx in the United States social imaginary. As such, this article centers the understanding that for Black and minoritized folx, historical legacies carry the lingering effects of what may seem over and done with. These tensions converge on what M. Jacqui Alexander (2005) called the palimpsest, or “a parchment that has been inscribed two or three times, the previous text having been imperfectly erased” (Alexander, 2005, p. 190). A framing of time and realities as palimpsestic, or imperfect erasure, suggests that the past is visible and acting upon the present. The potential of a palimpsest methodology rests on the ethical entanglements of the body, memory, and space-time and afterlives with respect to existing tendencies and reliable possibilities. Methodologically, we propose that the palimpsest necessarily reads data and researcher positionalities as woven together, written over, and grappling with one another. In turn, this article intends to pursue embodied research by envisioning the notion of the palimpsest as a methodological tool. To accomplish this, we begin with a brief review of the literature and disciplinary grounds that root the notion of the palimpsest. From there, we discuss the guiding principles for this approach before offering methodological considerations. Against the violence of complicity, temporality, and objectivity, for researchers, a palimpsest approach argues for an assumed responsibility to the work they engage in, the lives they work with, and sites that ground their work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Methods
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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