“Affecting” Change through Participants’ Images of Their Settlement Experience in a Small Canadian City

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Choon Lee CHAI, Red Deer College, Canada
Liza MCCOY, Sociology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Tabitha PHIRI, Central Alberta Immigrant Women's Association, Canada
This presentation discusses the visual component of a community-based research project examining the settlement experiences of recently-arrived, racialized immigrant women settling in a small city, Red Deer, Alberta, and its surrounding rural communities. The focus of the research is on the services and supports available to newcomers, evaluated from the perspective of the women who use them – with the goal of informing service development and settlement policy in the region, and more broadly, helping the host society do a better job of welcoming and integrating newcomers. In addition to a survey of 154 women, the research involved a Photovoice component in which 36 women, most had participated in the survey, made images that represented crucial aspects of their encounters with the natural, built, service, and social environments in their new communities.

A primary goal was to generate images and texts that could be used in exhibitions and materials for the general public as well as service providers and policy makers. Here the idea was not simply to provide interesting information about newcomers, but to invite viewers to reflect on the spaces and practices of their community as a site of settlement. To that end we are working with the images and interview texts to develop a public exhibition that will occur in spring 2018; there will also be an online version.

In this presentation we discuss the tensions, challenges and possibilities of working with these images (e.g., non-professional, sometimes blurry, apparently banal) in order to make a powerful exhibition that works artistically and affectively as well as informationally – and that does justice to the intents and purposes of the participants. We also reflect on the strengths and limitations of Photovoice methodology for this kind of project.