411.4 Unruly politics and methodological mashups: How can participatory visual methods contribute to citizen engagement?

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 4:51 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Tessa LEWIN , Participation, Power and Social Change Team, Institute of Development Studies, Falmer, East Sussex, United Kingdom
Joanna WHEELER , Participation, Power and Social Change Team, Institute of Development Studies, Falmer, East Sussex, United Kingdom
This paper will examine the use of a ‘mashup’ of participatory visual methods to support social activism in five municipalities of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It will reflect critically on the use of digital storytelling and participatory video to create public dialogue around the role of citizen participation.  Visual participatory processes link participatory methods of reflection, inquiry and analysis with digital video/photography and other creative methods.  This approach involves opening a space for reflection on a particular issue or question, and then linking these reflections into processes of dialogue between different groups, while simultaneously documenting the content of these sessions and developing ways to visually communicate.  The paper will argue that this iteration between different perspectives is key to how participatory visual methods help to distil and clearly articulate messages that can be used for social action. The potential contribution to citizen action will be examined.

Current analysis of social exclusion in Bosnian society indicates that there are numerous structural limitations on citizen participation.  At the same time, citizens are increasingly defined and ordered through their ethnic and religious identities.  Media sources are progressively streamlined into this political landscape, and informal spaces of participation are restricted. Yet the events of the past year also point to the importance of citizen-led moments of rupture from dominant power structures: Tahrir Square, the 2011 riots in UK cities, the Occupy movement, los indignados.  Within a context, such as Bosnia, where there is extreme fragmentation of political community, in which histories of violence are inscribed on citizen identities, and in a contemporary culture where visual knowledges and representations are ubiquitous - can citizens use visual methods to positively disrupt the status quo? Can we, as researchers, create spaces for engagement that are both critical and ‘safe’ and have potential to create rupture which is transformational?