Photography As a Research Method in Exploring Bilingual Teenagers' Language Minority Group Identifications

Friday, July 18, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: 417
Oral Presentation
Gunilla HOLM , Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, University of Helsinki, Finland
Using participatory photography as a research method is underutilized in sociological youth studies. Young people today are comfortable using photographs for communication. Visual research methods are increasing in overall importance, but especially the analysis and interpretation of visual data have not changed much in the last decades. Hence, the focus in this paper is on analysis and interpretation of photographs taken by 15-year old students in the comprehensive school in Finland. The importance of the researcher’s language minority habitus in interpretation is explored in relation to the habitus of the language minority students.

The teenagers all belong to the Swedish speaking minority group in Finland. The purpose of this study is to explore how the Swedish language minority students position themselves with regard to belonging to the Finland-Swedish group by using photography as well as interviews as the data collection methods. In particular we were interested in exploring how photographs and interviews complement each other. Of particular interest are the teenagers’ identifications with and their views of the Finland-Swedish language minority group.

The study is part of a larger multi-sited ethnography and in this paper we focus on the photographs taken by students in four schools and 62 interviews and 22 photo elicitation interviews.

We found that the photographs and the interviews complemented each other by bringing up different issues. The interviews focused mostly on the language itself as a key identification while the photographs were metaphorical and brought up aspects more difficult to verbalize. The photographs expressed the habitus of being a Finland-Swede. There were photographs expressing the loneliness of being a minority member, the harassment, the sense of belonging as well as the comfort in the minority networks, traditions and culture.