This short piece highlights a current spurt in queer researcher–practitioners doing practice as research (PaR) in higher education and explores potential reasons why PaR is so vital, appealing, useful and strategic for queer research. As a starting point, we offer the idea of messiness and messing things up as a way of describing the methods of PaR. Queer mess is to do with asserting the value and pleasure of formations of knowledge that sit outside long-standing institutional hierarchies of research. The latter places what Robin Nelson calls ‘hard knowledge’ above tacit, quotidian, haptic and embodied knowledge. The methodological and philosophical impulses of PaR make space for a range of research methods inherently bound up with the researcher as an individual and the materiality of lived experience within research. Yet, in our experience, although each PaR project is individual, PaR projects follow certain shared modes evolving largely from embodied and heuristic research methods adapted from social sciences, such as (auto)ethnography, participant observation, phenomenology and action research. PaR methodology in theatre and performance is composed of a bricolage of these openly embodied methods, which makes PaR, as an embodied resistance to sanitary boundaries, somewhat queer in academic terms already. It is unsurprising, then, that PaR is so attractive to queer practitioner–researchers bent on queering normative hierarchies of knowledge.
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