Oona Hatton

Oona Hatton

Communication Studies


What research questions currently preoccupy you?

I am currently working on two very different projects. The first is an ethnographic investigation into the performance of race and the dramatization of history in an annual community-based performance. With this project I am interested in questions of representation: of race and also of gender, space, and "the past." The second project is a one-man play about solitary confinement. With this piece I am interested in the question of how one maintains a sense of self under torturous conditions.

What personal factors contributed to your research?

The second project grew out of my correspondence with a prisoner in solitary whose writing and art I used in one of my courses. I had been sad to leave the subject behind and grateful for his permission to adapt the material. He is an amazing and inspirational person as well as a talented artist, and his determination and perseverance are a source of inspiration. I want to share his story with everyone.

What has been most challenging in your research?

Time. Never enough time.

How has your position in SJSU contributed to your research?

As a lecturer, there isn't a lot of support for research. I was delighted to get a RSCA grant to fund the first draft of my play. I am also indebted to my undergraduate students: they are my toughest critics, and I know that if I can't engage them then I need to refine my thoughts. They are also an infinite source of new ideas.

A hidden (research) talent:

Ha! Although I think I am a very good ethnographer, I spend a lot of time feeling insecure about my talents. It is the most taxing method I've ever utilized: it is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting--it is also incredibly rewarding. The requirements of the job are always changing, so one never feels (at least I never feel) like, "oh, I know exactly what I'm doing here." I guess my talent would be forging ahead even when I know it's going to be difficult.

One book that changed your life (or research) & why:

So many...but one is Elizabeth Chin's Purchasing Power. This book is fascinating, rigorous, heartfelt, and heartbreaking. And funny. Also Michael Rohd's Theatre for Community, Conflict, and Dialogue.

A website/journal/newspaper (in your field?) you follow without fail:

TDR. It's idiosyncratic but that's part of what makes it so interesting.

Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:

To students: Figure out what you love and then figure out a way to keep doing it forever. And put your phone down. To newer faculty: Do less.

RSCA Accomplishments

Drafted “See You in My Dreams.” Readings in November at SJSU and UC Davis. Project is ongoing.