Envisioning alternate futures: Photovoice as a mode of shadow citizenship in Vietnam and Indonesia

Authors: Melody Lynch*, University of Melbourne, Noelani Eidse, McGill University
Topics: Qualitative Methods, Field Methods
Keywords: Visual ethnographies; participatory methods; photovoice; everyday politics; citizenship; Indonesia; Vietnam
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


Participatory visual methods have become increasingly recognized as powerful tools for geographical thought and practice as they move beyond discursive representations of lived experiences. In contrast to conventional research approaches, visual methods aim to facilitate collaborative knowledge production, increase participants’ tools for self-representation, and balance power in researcher-respondent relationships. Reflecting on the contributions of photovoice for research with populations on the political, economic and social ‘fringe’, our paper incorporates findings from case studies in two Southeast Asian locales: Hanoi, Vietnam and Wakatobi, Indonesia. Here, we draw on photovoice (2015—2016) with street vendors navigating state sanctions aimed at eliminating informal vending from Hanoi—Vietnam’s Capital. Photovoice carried out with small-scale fishers in Wakatobi (2013—2015), on the other hand focuses on citizen-state negotiations concerned with resource access and livelihood viability. Together, these case studies highlight the role of photovoice in providing insights into situated experiences of everyday survival; furthermore, we find that innovative participatory methods, such as photovoice, play an integral role in revealing otherwise obscured perspectives and daily politics of life on the ‘margins’ of dominant societies. Our paper engages with debates on the usefulness and limitations of photovoice. We argue that photovoice requires a substantial degree of investment—from participants and researchers—though it plays an integral role in garnering knowledge on situated experiences of ‘life on the margin’. Additionally, participatory visual methods in critical research can present significant political implications for respondents, which researchers must hedge against with rigour.

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