Transversality in the making of a photo-graphic short novel

Authors: Daniel Paiva*, Universidade de Lisboa
Topics: Cultural Geography, Field Methods, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: fieldwork, storytelling, graphic novel, interdisciplinarity, transversality
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 12
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper discusses the making of Matinha – the plant cyborg, a photo-graphic short novel made from field registers of the research project NoVOID – Ruins and Vacant Lands in the Portuguese Cities. NoVOID focused on understanding the life of abandoned spaces within the city, through an interdisciplinary approach that comprised different methods such as statistical analysis of census data, remote sensing and vertical aerial photography interpretation, flora inventories, ethnoarchaeology, archival work, non-participant observation, and interviews. Despite the diversity of methodological approaches, photography was a common tool among the team members, and therefore photographs were common field registers. We came to realize that these field registers told stories about the field that our conventional academic writings could not.
With this in mind, we assembled these materials into a photo-graphic short novel that tells the story of an abandoned site in Lisbon, highlighting the cyborgian plant-technology formations that are found there. The purpose of this short novel was to mix the different knowledges that emerged within the research project in a way that could break disciplinary barriers. In this paper, I want to reflect on the process of making the photo-graphic short novel, and how it both echoes and blends not only the different field methods of project NoVOID, but also its disciplinary perspectives. In this reflection, I draw on Guattari’s conception of transversality to argue that storytelling can be a powerful transversal tool to overcome the barriers that persist between scientific disciplines.

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