Photo Elicitation and the Visual Sociology of Religion

Abstract

Visual research methods—image-based techniques for collecting, analyzing, and explaining data—are not mainstream in the social scientific study of religion. Few sociologists employ them, fewer still to study religion. While mainstream qualitative and quantitative methods have much to offer, words and numbers alone may miss important dimensions of religion and spirituality in the contemporary world. This research note provides an overview of work on the most commonly used visual research technique in the sociology of religion: photo elicitation (PE). We frame our essay around four questions. What is visual sociology? What is photo elicitation? How has PE been used in the social scientific study of religion? And how else could this technique be utilized in religious research?

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Helpful introductions to visual research in the social sciences include Harper (2012), Mitchell (2011), and Pink (2013)—Williams (2014) offers a review of these books.

  2. 2.

    We are working from the OnlineFirst version of this article, which was available in September 2012.

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Acknowledgments

This essay is the result of a faculty-student research project funded by a Calvin College Alumni Association Faculty Grant and a Calvin College Department of Sociology and Social Work Deur Award.

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Correspondence to Roman R. Williams.

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Williams, R.R., Whitehouse, K. Photo Elicitation and the Visual Sociology of Religion. Rev Relig Res 57, 303–318 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13644-014-0199-5

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Keywords

  • Visual research methods
  • Sociology of religion
  • Photo elicitation
  • Ethnography
  • Visual sociology
  • Visual anthropology