My Dissertation Experience

The award-winning cast of Marvel’s  Black Panther .

The award-winning cast of Marvel’s Black Panther.

It all begins here,

‘Black females are the future: The women in Black Panther are badass, and here’s to why we’re not going back.’

That was the title of my dissertation.

I got to focus on a topic that I was passionate about, which only made the mountains of research easier for me. So, if there’s a lesson in here somewhere, it’s that – choose a topic, a niche that you want to learn more about, that intrigues you and not just what you know you can get a first in, because by the midway point you’ll regret it.

However, before we get into the challenges of writing a dissertation, I want to talk about how great it was. So, my dissertation centred around Afrofuturism and the way women have been portrayed in Science Fiction and Fantasy entities throughout history. The conclusion was not good, but there’s hope. Along with the essay I wrote, the brief gave me the chance to explore my creative side and I choose to write a pilot episode for an Afrofuturist drama about a young British-Ghanaian girl who finds out she is a witch. It explores the relationship with West African and magic, but also family connections. I’m not going to say much more because who knows, you might see it on Netflix, BBC or even HBO – sooner than you think. By the way, that’s not a teaser, I’m just all about positive energy and the law of attraction.

The special thing about being able to write my dissertation about Afrofuturism is that it gave me a chance to explore my heritage as I am half Ghanaian. I was able to tap into the language and culture in a way that I haven’t been exposed to before, growing up in Britain. It was an experience I am grateful for, being able to incorporate Twi (which is a dialect of the Akan language originating in the Ashanti region.) I got to have black characters practising magic and not been the supporting characters of someone else’s narrative, and being someone who loves the genre, I hadn’t seen a lot of this in the past.

As I said before, I have always loved fantasy/sci-fi since I was a child, whether I was delving into the wizarding world of Harry Potter, watching Charmed on TV or writing my own stories about fairies and mythical creatures – it has been a big part of my creativity, however the main protagonists consistently came up white. Even in my own stories, the main protagonists were white, a topic I briefly touch on in my article about English Literature and challenging my own biases.

My dissertation allowed me to write characters who looked like me, and my family. I got to challenged myself and complete a 60-page TV pilot. It tested my resilience but also my skill as a writer to sustain a story and take on helpful criticism to help my project grow. It has also taught me a lot about myself, in terms of what I want from career as a writer and the steps that I can take in order to hone my craft and grow. I am immensely proud of the work that I was able to create with the help of my dissertation supervisor (someone who I couldn’t have done it without, special shout out to Dr Sherezade Garcia Rangel – you were amazing).

I say all of this to remind you that your dissertation can be one of the greatest pieces you write at university. Make sure you enjoy it, yes it’s stressful – there’s no getting around that. However, with support from your supervisor and friends and the passion you have for the topic, you will get through this and be proud of your writing. This is your time to flex your muscles and show everyone, but more importantly yourself, what you can do.

Reflecting on my dissertation in some ways was harder than writing it, but what it has clearly shown me is that writing about topics you love will always be the best feeling in the world.

Good luck to all the upcoming and future third-years and well done to all the past third-years, who can say they completed their dissertation. It’s not an easy feat but we did it!

by Daniella Ferguson-Djaba