Undergraduate Research

L. Joshua Jackson ’23

OUR Featured Researcher: L. Joshua Jackson ’23

L. Joshua Jackson
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones '97

L. Joshua Jackson (they/them) is majoring in Africana studies. They conduct research under the mentorship of Associate Professor of Theater and Africana Studies Justin Emeka. Their project is titled “Embodied Liberation: An Offering.”

Please describe your project:

Afrikans and their descendants have used rituals for centuries to seek liberation from the products of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. I seek to define these rituals, rooted in over 2,000 cultures on the African continent, as mechanisms of Embodied Liberation. Including practices such as Capoeira, Embodied Liberation allows individuals to express their emotions, remind themselves that they are larger than their circumstances, and connect with the roots of their culture. My research focuses on how Embodied Liberation takes shape through the philosophies, training, and histories of Capoeira and explores analytical psychology as a means of understanding generational trauma. The goal is to offer descendants of Africa methods of Embodied Liberation. My honors project will document contemporary traces of Embodied Liberation through the HipHop aesthetic and culminate in an audio-visual presentation.

A brief summary (the elevator speech) of your research project:

My research and project are about using what our ancestors and elders have left us to intentionally shape our individual participation in collective liberation. Whether it be my father’s lessons, guidance from Prof. Jackson-Smith or Capoeira from Prof. Emeka, I seek to find the gems and plant the seeds they have shared with me. Meanwhile, tending to our shared garden to pluck out that which may be harmful, and pass on that which can be healing.

Why is your research important?

My research, and its subsequent productions, compliment scholarship and HipHop in how I am crafting space for collective healing. To me, Capoeira is about meeting yourself and choosing how you wish to confront the world around you. Similar to my music, the honesty required in this process necessitates and provides space for healing in the hands of the practitioner. 

What does the process of doing your research look like?

I am mindfully filtering my study to shape my scholarship and craft my records. On a day-to-day basis this looks like choosing who I will see in what context, fasting, studying, training, practicing guitar, and creating from production to mix – AND REST. I have to create space to handle challenging emotions such as grief, rage, and shame which often translates into rest. 

L. Joshua Jackson working in an audio editing programWhat knowledge has your research contributed to your field?

I have found that generation trauma can be addressed and healed through speaking and embodying what is personal and political. By speaking and embodying, I mean through physical and musical creativity.

In what ways have you showcased your research thus far?

I presented my research at the Oberlin Summer Research Symposium through the Oberlin College Research Fellowship. 

How did you get involved in research? What drove you to seek out research experiences in college? 

The research found me. I took Capoeira with Prof. Emeka and fell in love with the dance/martial art. Prof. Emeka prompted me to apply that passion which led me to apply my dedication to HipHop in my research as well.

What is your favorite aspect of the research process?

I love speaking to other people who care about what they do and better understanding what it means to love something such as music or Capoeira just because… I love drawing connections between scholars and contacting them to share my appreciation. I love the “people-ing” above all.

How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project? How has it impacted you as a researcher?

Prof. Emeka taught me to make space for the things that I care about and show up to the space that I craft. He taught me to be mindfully flexible about my boundaries. However my academic advisor, Prof. Jackson-Smith, taught me that everything is connected in Black culture and I should seek out how I am connected to the roots. 

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

Certainly. The idea of researching and my goals went hand-in-hand as I first crafted my research proposal with Prof. Emeka. All I had to do was stay curious and dedicated to my passions. 

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

You can always shift your proposal and goals, but make sure you are dedicated to the process of researching whatever you choose. I choose to research things that I can always be in emotional, physical, and spiritual interaction with. In doing so, I choose my life's work.