Using Mixed Photo-Based Methods to Elicit Rural, Toxic Places of Slow Violence

Authors: John Henry*, University of Kansas
Topics: Qualitative Methods, Environmental Perception, Geographic Theory
Keywords: slow violence, critical visual methodologies, environmental justice, photowalks, creative geography, rural geographies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Senate Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Human geography has embraced both empirical and critical visual methods as valuable forms of illuminating place-based experiences. In relation to the experience of toxic places, geographers have begun theorizing Rob Nixon’s slow violence, in which toxic experiences are compounded over decades of living in place, causing health effects and a gradual degradation of life. Thom Davies builds on slow violence by relying on the slow observations of residents as a lens into the everyday life in toxic places and as a temporal lens of place-based environmental change. This paper bridges the gap between slow violence and critical visual methodologies to show that photo-based methods are suited to illuminate nuanced and hidden experiences, thereby making slow violence visible. My research draws on a combination of open-ended interviews and a mix of photo-based methodologies in which the co-creation of the image adds to the understanding of the hidden nature of industrial toxicity and suffering. I first discuss recent contributions to slow violence. I then analyze visual and critical visual methodologies and their contributions to human geography. Finally, I discuss my case study in which I theorize how the experience of slow violence alters place meaning and show how a comprehensive approach to photo-methodologies allows for flexibility in rural settings, allowing the co-creation of knowledge of hidden toxic places.

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