The Role of the Visual in Narratives of Violence: Co-creating Fissures [chapter]

Ava Kanyeredzi, Paula Reavey, Steven D. Brown
2014 The Entrepreneurial University  
When visual approaches are used in the social sciences, the distinction between researcher and researched becomes destabilized, due to a greater transference of autonomy and narrative authority over to the participant who creates, organizes and analyses data in partnership with the researcher. 'Showing a world' is more agentic perhaps than the traditional format of 'telling a world', where participants inevitably have to respond to the researcher's agenda. In this chapter we argue that one of
more » ... argue that one of the reasons for the productive ambiguity over authorship and participation within this methodological process is due to the facilitation of affect, embodiment and space within the visual research agenda. We argue here, using examples from an empirical project on black women's experiences of violence that visual methods open channels that encourage the surfacing of emotional ruptures in rehearsed biographical narratives (Reavey, 2011) . 'Seeing' a moment from one's life (through personal photographs or video etc) can register on an affective level, because the image can reignite an affectivebiographical moment in greater specificity than a spoken narrative. 'Seeing' also constructs a context that enables the person to make comparisons and therefore consider any changes between feelings in the past and present. Similarly, when participants engage with imagistic representations of themselves, their embodied states emerge at the forefront of their engagements with themselves as subjects. We would argue these shifts towards affect and embodiment in the use of visual images in qualitative research create a different mode of ownership and creative responsibility over the data. This transferring of responsibility can create the potential for marginalized groups to 'show' and speak through their experiences with greater authorial confidence than traditional social science methods. In showing how feelings and bodies move within certain spaces, in all their specificity, participants may be better able to indicate in a more contextualized fashion how their own creative engagements with their worlds have facilitated movement and change. This should not discourage a more traditional reading of the relationship between marginalization and power, but should point to the ambiguities between people's ability to engage creatively and agentically, even at times of disempowerment. Here we argue that visual methods may offer the possibility of enabling participants to show the researcher their lives and in so doing the research process becomes transformative both The role of the visual in narratives of violence: co-creating fissures. for the participant and the researcher and extends what constitutes the data that is produced. In this chapter we will be examining the nature of this transformation and how it relates to the variety of ways in which we understand the 'impact agenda'. (Whose?) participation in the research process Like many other researchers somewhat disillusioned with the idea that academic research should involve only 'objective' and 'removed' forms of data collection, we would argue that awareness of how participants engage with the research process, should start at recruitment, and continue beyond to the analysis and even write up and dissemination phases (Kindon, Pain and Kesby, 2009). We are writing this from within psychology also, which has traditionally shunned approaches that acknowledge the subjective and experiential components of research, in favour of a neutral and distant observer and observed relationships between researcher and participant (Willig & Stainton Rogers, 2008).This approach is similar in that respect to Participatory approaches in the social sciences, that acknowledge from the onset that 'giving voice' to participants is not just a matter of providing participants with the opportunity to tell their stories at interview (often in response to researcher defined questions), but involves a genuine exchange between researcher and participant (collaborative knowledge) and a capacity within that relationship for personal transformation to occur (for both the participant and the researcher). However, when we acknowledge the potential for collaboration and co-participation from the public we engage with in the research process, we must also acknowledge that this process is far from straight forward or linear; it is emotional, embodied and the outcomes we find do not necessarily fit into neat thematic categories, which many academic institutions favour, as a way of publishing 'results' and 'findings'. Our work, in a great many respects is informed by feminist approaches concerned with dispelling the myth of the objective neutral researcher and bringing into view the identity, personal history, positionality of the researcher, just as much as the participant, to examine and reflect upon knowledge production (Ramazonoglu & Holland, 2003). Of course, this process can be painful, confusing and may involve us a researchers in a form of silencing of our own emotional/affective engagements with participants stories (Lewis, 2009)-and in the case of visual research -distancing ourselves from the images participants present to us, as a way of protecting ourselves from feeling
doi:10.1057/9781137275875_10 fatcat:wv2i4ibqqjcihkgbcbrqrlyfya