Tanja Samardzic is a Ph.D. Candidate in Applied Social Psychology at the University of Guelph being supervised by Dr. Paula Barata. Tanja’s research concerns navigation of the societal messages about how (young) women “should” be in various contexts. A primary research focus of hers is silencing of some aspect(s) of oneself (e.g., voice) within important relationships, which Tanja is exploring and unpacking among young women, some of whom are currently in intimate relationships with abusive men, as part of her dissertation. An additional line of inquiry under the umbrella of navigating societal messages about how (young) women “should be” is exploring women’s experiences with polycystic ovary syndrome, an endocrine condition that pushes the boundaries of “normality,” namely through the presentation of symptoms (e.g., hair growth on the chin and chest, possibly infertility) that challenge normative conceptions of Western femininity.
Before beginning her Ph.D., Tanja’s research was conducted through a positivist approach and she employed quantitative methods to answer research questions of interest. This approach felt limiting but it was not until beginning her Ph.D. at the University of Guelph, taking courses (e.g., Critical Approaches to Applied Social Psychology), reading articles, and having insightful conversations with faculty and colleagues that she began understanding why this approach felt so limiting and what was missing: adopting a critical perspective and using qualitative methods.
Tanja’s dissertation, which she has approached through a critical feminist lens, will allow her to (a) explore the discourses that shape how young women do intimate heterosexual relationships; and (b) deepen the current understanding of young women’s experiences in intimate relationships with violent men, particularly as they balance societal expectations about relationship maintenance, to explore how women do silencing in the intimate context. Tanja’s identification as a critical feminist applied social psychology scholar/researcher continues to be influential to her work.