Exploring the Significance of Visual Culture in Young People's Attempts to Accomplish Everyday Life in Disadvantaged Circumstances and the Complexities of Representing and Politicising Such Private Circumstances Visually

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal 13 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Sarah WILSON, School of Social Sciences, University of Stirling, United Kingdom
The practices, rituals and materiality of everyday life have received much recent sociological attention. Miller (2010) argues that the self is constructed through material, including visual, culture. In contrast, the non-development or maintenance of such cultures may reflect a sense of disorientation or of the futility of engaging in the ‘work of inhabitance’ (Ahmed 2006) required to create live-able spaces in which to flourish. Drawing on a project examining ‘belonging’, and specifically on an excerpt from a filmed interview with one participant made at the end of the project to illustrate its findings, this paper will first explore the significance of both the use(s) and absence(s) of visual culture to young people’s experience, understanding and imagination of their situations and future possibilities in small, ill-furnished flats in social housing after leaving state care. Second it will analyse this film as a modest attempt to highlight visually such experiences and imaginations and the links between such fragile living environments and political decision-making, identifying several complexities. First, although not made in a private space, the film may constitute the kind of exposure more often experienced by the marginalised (Ginsburg 2015). However, the non-anonymised interview also underlines aspects of a regime of governmentality, including ethical discourses, that are invested in the non-visibility of disadvantaged ‘private’ circumstances. Second, the participant’s self-presentation inevitably draws on  highly visible contemporary narratives that individualise disadvantage while obscuring social histories and the workings of power. Yet the interview discussion of the participant’s own (accomplished) drawings and his sophisticated use of visual culture to think through his situation also foreground a ‘complex’ rather than passive or exclusively vulnerable personhood (Gordon 2008). As such, however momentarily, the film troubles prevalent social imaginations of disadvantage, while communicating something of the ‘structure of feeling’ (Williams 1977) of such circumstances.