Undergraduate Research

Bour Opoku '24

OUR Featured Researcher: Bour Opoku '24

Bour Opoku
Photo credit: Jacob Strauss

Bour Opoku (she/they) is majoring in Sociology and Law and Society.  She conducts research under the mentorship of Professor Pamela Brooks. Her project is titled “A History of the Hypersexualization of  Black Women in the United  States". 

Please describe your project: 

My research is a study of the hypersexualization of Black women in America. My project, using both historical and contemporary depictions of Black women, will strengthen the literature through firsthand insights from interviews with young Black women. The critical problem that my proposed research project seeks to address is the hypersexualization of Black women and its effects on them. While a great deal has been written about the hypersexualization of Black women, not nearly enough is known about its negative psychological effects on them, including depression, anxiety, skewed self-perception, and eating disorders. My research aims to fill this important knowledge gap by providing new insights into this long-standing issue. 

Summarize your research briefly (elevator speech)?

My research is a study of the hypersexualization of Black women in America. While a great deal has been written about the hypersexualization of Black women, not nearly enough is known about its negative psychological effects on them, including depression, anxiety, skewed self-perception, and eating disorders. My research aims to fill this important knowledge gap by providing new insights into this long-standing issue.

What does the process of doing your research look like?      

Most of my research was reading books, whether I was reading memoirs, journals, biographies, each piece of work that I read exposed me to a different perspective or a different understanding. After reading I make a document summarizing what I found and connecting it to other readings. 

What knowledge has your research contributes to your field?

There is a huge gap in knowledge about the history of Black women’s hypersexualization, so my research over the summer was to shed more light and attention on the issue. I am hoping to continue this research in my 4th year and conduct interviews so I also get Black women’s perspectives.

How did you get involved in research?

I noticed that there were no/ very few classes being taught about Black women, until I took Professor Brook’s African-American Women’s History class. After that I decided that if I wanted to learn more about Black women and specifically the historical struggles of Black women, I would have to seek them out myself, and that is when I decided to apply to OCRF.

How has the research you’ve conducted contributed to your professional or academic development?

My career goal is to be a social worker specializing in trauma. This research has shown me the ways that being hypersexualized is a form of trauma that most Black women experience. This has taught me to look for ways to support marginalized communities in my academic work here at Oberlin and postgraduate.

What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in your field?

There is so much room and opportunity for you to do research! Whatever you want to research is important, so don’t let self-doubt discourage you from pursuing what you want! Faculty are very open to doing research with students, so don’t be scared to just reach out!