Negotiated Ethics in Reality: Exploring Participatory Video Research with Migrant Transgender Communities and Sex Workers in India

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:12
Location: Hörsaal 13 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Jacqueline SHAW, Real Time, United Kingdom, Royal Holloway University of London, United Kingdom
Practitioner-researchers are increasingly recognising the importance of critically interrogating the reality of participatory video practice in research and community development contexts. Questions have been raised about the multiple motivations (e.g. of participants, practitioners and financing agencies), the empowerment purposes and outcomes, the emergent power dynamics, and the ethics of public expression and reception. There is a compelling need to reflect honestly about how processes play out in the typically contested project context.

This paper draws on my recent experiences convening a visual research programme as part of the Participate initiative, which brought perspectives from extremely poor and marginalised communities to UN policy makers during post-2015 deliberations. In the presentation I explore participatory video processes that took place from 2012 to 2013 with migrant transgender communities and sex workers in Chennai and Maharashtra. I firstly, ground participatory video as a longer-term interactional process (the means) towards increased social influence (the consequence), because I contend that framing the purpose as participatory representation makes the curtailment of social possibilities more likely. I also emphasise that practice tensions are an intrinsic (and potentially productive) aspect of participatory video when negotiating to increase participant’s influence across social divides, agencies and levels.

Next I use key critical incidents from the research, contextualised with visual materials produced by the transgender group, to raise key questions about the participatory video realities. These include the methodological contributions and ethical contradictions, the conflicting researcher and community agendas, the dynamic aspects as insight location and constraint, the translation of cultural aesthetics, and issues of ownership and creative commons with stigmatised groups. Consequently, this paper contributes to developing a more sophisticated account of visual methods, which acknowledges the theoretical and practical ambiguities and the often rather messy, indefinite and contingent actuality.