Visualizing critical geopolitics: inter-generational, place-based digital storytelling

Authors: David Marshall*, Elon University, Dima Smaira, American University of Beirut
Topics: Qualitative Methods, Political Geography, Middle East
Keywords: critical geopolitics, feminist geopolitics, visual methods, storytelling, youth, conflict
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Senate Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The use of creative visual methods in research with young people--such as photovoice and mental mapping--has been criticized for reproducing a parochial preoccupation with local-scale micropolitics. The converse holds true in critical geopolitics, which has shown a reluctance to engage with creative visual methodologies and often exhibits a tendency to reify the very state-centric scopic regimes that critical geopolitics intends to de-center. Indeed, until somewhat recently, there has been relatively little engagement between research in geographies of children and youth and critical geopolitics. Drawing upon community-based research with young people in Lebanon, Cyprus, and Palestine, this paper describes the use of digital storytelling as a participatory, youth-centered visual research method. We contend that this method enables an examination of how the everyday lives of young people unfold within broader geopolitical processes, while simultaneously allowing young people in “(post-)conflict societies” to challenge the dominant geopolitical narratives that so often frame their lives. Situated in the productive interplay between representation and affect, digital storytelling juxtaposes intimate voice and private snapshots with familiar sounds and archival images. As such, the medium highlights confluences and ruptures between individual stories and (geo)political narratives. Our intergenerational, place-based approach eschews the more individualistic notions typically mobilized by pedagogical applications of digital storytelling. Rather than using digital storytelling as a tool for introspective self-reflection, place-based digital storytelling encourages inter-subjective extrospection, a process of exploring how individual stories unfold within broader geopolitical narratives and intertwine with the stories of other people and places.

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