Lucy aged 15.jfif
Ethnographic and Visual Research Methods

Research that investigates subjects like statelessness, displacement and migration can easily fall prey to front loading the contexts of marginalisation. Paying attention to these contexts is undoubtedly important yet people are not simply defined by the inequalities they face. Conducting ethnographic research among noncitizen Vietnamese communities in Cambodia that draws on visual research methodologies has allowed for a three dimensional understanding of such phenomena as rooted displacement. During my research I observed and shared moments of joy, loss, hope and love. The use of participant observation within ethnographic research is an important cornerstone in unearthing intimate understandings of life. In addition, I have found using participatory research tools like drawing and photography have centred children's stories, as told by them. 

For my research in Cambodia I used methods selected by participants that work to share power and break down the boundary of researcher and researched. Working cross culturally with children I have had to think through the particularities of age, ethics, language and representation. To this end, participatory research methods that draw heavily on the visual, have helped in gathering data. Methods used considered the temporal and spatial dimensions of children's lives. For instance, timelines were used to explore the past in the form of memories, and family heritage, and to discuss children's sense of their future, mobility and hopes for their family and community. Children drew self portraits to discuss how they see themselves in the present and who and what is important to them. I developed an 'identity flower' tool so participants could reflect on what makes up their subjective sense of self and what connects them to others. I am currently writing an article on my use of methods digging into the above in more detail. I hope to share that with you soon! Do contact me if you want to know more about my use of research methods on this project. For those that are interested here's a helpful reading list on visual research methods and ethical considerations when working with children.

Visual Research Methods: participatory photography

My research reinforced a desire to show communities - often boxed in categories - to be more than "migrant", "a policy problem" or "non-citizen". It is an obvious thing to say, but unfortunately people are all too often reduced to bureaucratic labelling. Using visual research methods such as photography and drawings with children lent itself to rich, participant led descriptions of daily life.

Covid-19 has meant that plans to exhibit children's photographs, taken with disposable cameras, has been halted. It is great to have this space to showcase the photographs taken by research participants and give some context to the stories they tell. Below is a snap shot of some of the pictures. I will host an online photo exhibition in due course. If you want to know more details of this even please sign up here. 

 

The images taken by children reveal the significance, and use of, space, community and children's future aspirations. 

My Everyday Life. Kevin, 15 years old. 
The road to my house
The road to my house

I usually sleep in the boat house. I don't dare to sleep in the land house because when I was younger my uncle scared me with ghost stories. It makes me afraid until now. Before my grandpa is the one sleeping there but now he goes to the hospital to be translator, so no one sleeps there. We just leave motorbikes, fish, dry fish and lock the door.

press to zoom
Drying Fish
Drying Fish

When the fish comes early, we can marinate them and dry them from the morning to mid afternoon. Any longer and the fish can be too hot or cooked already. After I come back from school, I can take the cover off.

press to zoom
The Altar.
The Altar.

press to zoom
The road to my house
The road to my house

I usually sleep in the boat house. I don't dare to sleep in the land house because when I was younger my uncle scared me with ghost stories. It makes me afraid until now. Before my grandpa is the one sleeping there but now he goes to the hospital to be translator, so no one sleeps there. We just leave motorbikes, fish, dry fish and lock the door.

press to zoom
1/6

My Everyday Life. Cammy, 15 years old. 

The Village.
The Village.

When I took this picture all I saw is trash.

press to zoom
The Fridge
The Fridge

press to zoom
My House.
My House.

press to zoom
The Village.
The Village.

When I took this picture all I saw is trash.

press to zoom
1/9

My Everyday Life. Thom, 15 years old. 

Testing 1, 2, 3.
Testing 1, 2, 3.

Learning how to use the camera.

press to zoom
Walking in the dark.
Walking in the dark.

This is the place where my father raised the fish. A light is being installed.

press to zoom
Fishing for worms.
Fishing for worms.

This is the place I go to dig for worms which we use for fishing.

press to zoom
Testing 1, 2, 3.
Testing 1, 2, 3.

Learning how to use the camera.

press to zoom
1/12