Images of the Invisible and Visions for the Future: Photovoice Following the Great East Japan Disasters

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 12:45
Location: Hörsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Mieko YOSHIHAMA, University of Michigan, USA
This participatory action research project using PhotoVoice methodology centers on the photographs and narratives of the very women affected by the disasters of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident that struck northern Japan in March 2011.  Since June 2011, over 50 women across 8 localities have been taking photographs to illustrate their experiences, community conditions, and societal responses (or the lack thereof).  In collaboration with local women’s organizations, these participants were recruited; they represent diverse age and sociodemographic backgrounds.  They continue to participate in small discussion groups to discuss their experiences, observations, and associated feelings and thoughts.  At each group meeting, the photographers, interactively with other participants, discuss their photographs; these group discussions are recorded and transcribed.  Following a series of these interactive discussions, individual participants choose photographs they wish to share outside, and create a voice (a short written message) for each of the selected photographs.  The analysis of the photographic images and two types of narratives (group discussions and individual photographers’ written messages/voices) allows for the examination of the nature and meaning of the damage and losses at the personal, family, community, and society levels.  Photographs taken by the participants differ considerably from the publically captured images of grave damages to the built environment (e.g., destroyed buildings and bridges; nuclear explosion), which have been widely and repeatedly shown across major media outlets.  Many photographs capture the effects of the disaster that are in and of themselves invisible (e.g., loss, radiation, a sense of community).  In the face of unspeakable destruction and losses, participants’ photographs and voices are filled with affections for their land, ocean, people, and community.  Through photographs and narratives, they interrogate the societal responses that they consider damaging to the nature/habitat, and in turn articulate visions for the future.