Profound developments in terms of scale, diversity of digital media and prosumerism (García-Galera & Valdivia, 2014; Madianou, 2011) in the last decade have resulted in vast monitoring of movement, migratory or otherwise. While migrants have been outlined as digital natives, early adopters and heavy users of digital technologies (Ponzanesi & Leurs, 2014); the intersection of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) and migration is still under-researched (Oiarzabal & Reips 2012), Madianou’s (2011) work being a notable exception. As Leurs and Prabhakar highlight (2018, p. 247), the implications of the rise of ubiquitous and pervasive technologies (software and hardware) for the migration experience can be grouped in two sets of media practices. On the one hand, these technologies are used to reproduce and (forcefully) enforce top-down control by (state) authorities. On the other, they enable migrants - both voluntary and forced - to connect (dis)affectively, manage kinship and other relationships (Cabalquinto, 2018; Madianou, 2012; Prieto-Blanco, 2016), participate in collective processes (Siapera & Veikou, 2013; Martínez Martínez, 2017; Özdemir, Mutluer & Özyürek, 2019), establish a sense of belonging (Yue, Li, Jin, & Feldman, 2013; Budarick, 2015; Gencel-Bek & Prieto-Blanco, 2020), and move money across borders (Aker, 2018; Batista & Narciso, 2013). “[T]he transformed epistolary base and the communication infrastructure of the migrant experience” (Hedge 2016, p. 3), with their distinct affordances, impact on how migration is currently understood via a focus on connectivity and presence. Stay in touch. Remain within reaching distance. Leave, but let your presence linger.
Profound developments in terms of scale, diversity of digital media and prosumerism (García-Galera & Valdivia, 2014; Madianou, 2011) in the last decade have resulted in vast monitoring of movement, migratory or otherwise. While migrants have been outlined as digital natives, early adopters and heavy users of digital technologies (Ponzanesi & Leurs, 2014); the intersection of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) and migration is still under-researched (Oiarzabal & Reips 2012), Madianou’s (2011) work being a notable exception. As Leurs and Prabhakar highlight (2018, p. 247), the implications of the rise of ubiquitous and pervasive technologies (software and hardware) for the migration experience can be grouped in two sets of media practices. On the one hand, these technologies are used to reproduce and (forcefully) enforce top-down control by (state) authorities. On the other, they enable migrants - both voluntary and forced - to connect (dis)affectively,Footnote 1 manage kinship and other relationships (Cabalquinto, 2018; Madianou, 2012; Prieto-Blanco, 2016), participate in collective processes (Siapera & Veikou, 2013; Martínez Martínez, 2017; Özdemir, Mutluer & Özyürek, 2019), establish a sense of belonging (Yue, Li, Jin, & Feldman, 2013; Budarick, 2015; Gencel-Bek & Prieto-Blanco, 2020), and move money across borders (Aker, 2018; Batista & Narciso, 2013). “[T]he transformed epistolary base and the communication infrastructure of the migrant experience”, with their distinct affordances, impact on how migration is currently understood via a focus on connectivity and presence. Stay in touch. Remain within reaching distance. Leave, but let your presence linger.
Whether for (dis)affective, political, monetary or surveillance purposes, migrants are connected (Diminescu, 2008). Hans Belting approaches the outlined context from a more philosophical approach that responds to the emergent significance of “non-places” (Augé 2009) and liminality. Through the term “nomadic world-citizens”, Belting highlights the relevance of bodies as materials where images (and stories) reside due to the expanding ephemerality of our ties to physical locations, as well as to the growing relevance of interactions in telecommunicative spaces (2001 pp. 39–41), or “tele-cocoons.” Tele-cocoons are ubiquitous and immediate, and their proliferation responds to the need of “nomadic world-citizens” of communicating in time rather than over time. Both bodies and “tele-cocoons”Footnote 2 remain constant for migrants, even when in “non-places”.
Importantly, Belting’s triad of image, medium and body (Belting, 2001) places emphasis on the sensorial activities and pre-cognitive know-how involved in (visually) mediated strategies of belonging. In turn, media use needs to be seen a place-making activity, and media as embodied practices. This senso-affective understanding of media (Pink, 2006, 2011) reveals the limitations of rationalist and (post)structuralist tools of analysis that have focused intensively on codes, ideologies and symbols (representation in short), as well as the shortcomings of the study of media focused on technological development, since both approaches are media-centred and often forget about the holistic, phenomenological processes in which media take part together with daily habits and other elements of material culture. As highlighted in the introduction to this volume, such a shift is the result of becoming aware of the ability of items, images included, to have a life of their own, and precipitate (dis)affective engagements/interactions (Edwards, 2012), functioning as a currency (Ahmed, 2004). The task at hand is to explore “[e]ngaged agency in day-to-day living” (Moores, 2018, p. 9) being aware that a) meaning and sense are constructed both through content (representation), as well as through contextual thinking with and through the body; b) the aforementioned shifts respond to White Global-North concerns and may not be pertinent to other socio-cultural context(s); c) research on tacit and intersubjective knowledge demands a high level of reflexivity (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992); d) the work inherently demands a trans/interdisciplinary approach that takes into account in equal measure explorations of media affordances, (mediated) everyday practices, and processes of emplacement and embodiment.
As Lehmuskallio explains, “looking as an action cannot happen without a body” (2012 p. 38). Thus, pictorial media and material mediations are always dependent on the human actor looking/creating/sharing/operating with them. This means that the embodied self always exerts some control over images but the interactions with the images are also always dependent on perception (interpretation of information that results in meaning). Interactions are organized in social settings around shared understandings, whereby one shared practice alone is enough to give rise to mutual interaction, and images are “transmitted in the interplay between media carrying images and bodies directing their attention in perceiving them” (Lehmuskallio 2012, p. 40). Perceiving bodies engage in the representation and communication of shared moments and/or realities, all of this inscribed in place/emplaced (Pink, 2011; Pink, 2011a). When our ties to place become ephemeral, volatile, and mutable, we turn our bodies into materials where images reside. Our remembering bodies are thus linked to spatial and temporal experiences. Bodies become temporal carriers of images, places where signifying processes and renegotiation of bonds take place. Bodies become media in use that allow the interactive generation of collective images. These foster interaction, help to generate spaces of (dis)affect, and enable active participation and on-going processes of (un)belonging (Prieto-Blanco, 2016a).
The exploration of the interplays and interactions between images, media and human actors could be further refined using Hennion’s work on attachment, as it takes into consideration the attachment itself, the experience of being attached, and the question of distributed agency (2012). It must be noted that Hennion’s understanding of practices as socio-technological construction in concrete experiential contexts owes much to Bourdieu’s habitus.Footnote 3 The ways we attach to each other are situational and experiential, and they concern the shared and common, be that past experiences or objects, emplaced in the public, the private or the in-between realm. Attaching demands work and commitment, the same two features of contemporary intimacy (Jamieson, 2005, pp. 198–199). When the attachment happens at a distance, mediations of the shared becomes – for better or for worse – a powerful instrument of intimate boundary work. Exploring such attachments and their construction requires empirical research, as well as a holistic approach to research that can only be delivered by being attached to research (Hennion 2012, p. 8). Thereby, the positionality of the researcher and the ethics of the research process take on importance. Much can thus be gained from engaging with the methodological tradition of visual sociology (Becker, 1974, 2003; Harper, 1988, 2012) and narrative inquiry (Moen, 2006; Andrews, Squire & Tamboukou, 2013; Alpagu, 2015), as these two approaches feature heavily reflexivity, participation and iterative informed consent.
1 What Does Visual Research Methods Add to the Study of Migration?
Visual researchers (Rose, 2001, 2014; Pink 2001, 2006, 2011; Bach, 2007; Mannay, 2015; Lobinger & Schreiber, 2017) drive to develop an ethical, respectful and inclusive methodological approach, along with the firm intention to advance multi-shaped texts in which knowledge is constructed by still and moving images as well as by written text (and I may add objects to this list). The ethos of visual research is to explore emplaced practices. Although elaborate, visual research designs ensure that adequate time and space is given to evaluate the ongoing collection of material during field-work, because a basic premise of the approach is that the negotiation process between participants and the researcher starts in the first information session and it continues throughout the entire research process (Prieto-Blanco, 2016). The aim is to enable participants to fully understand, and critically engage, with the implications of the dissemination of material, academic or otherwise. Further insights into the constant, while intermittent negotiation of trust, access and (re)presentation typical of visual research is offered by Frers (Chap. 5, in this volume). Under the term “ethics in motion”, Frers certainly understands the research process as intentional, reflective, and foremost actively human (Bach, 2007, p. 281); but more importantly, he advocates for an approach involving guidelines rather than rules, which in turn both presupposes and acknowledges researchers’ competence and craft. This vital vote of confidence has ramifications at institutional and legalistic levels, as well as in terms of the ever-unsettled relation between seeing and knowing, which Cambre following Berger recently reminded us of (2019). However, actively interrogating the positionality of researchers and participants is not only a question of methodology and ethics, but also of class, as many chapters featured in this volume evidence.
Building onto Harper’s fundamental employment of video to capture and convey emotional, tacit and intersubjective aspects of an object of study beyond the ivory tower of academia, in this volume, Stefano Piemontese (Chap. 10, in this volume) reflects on the craft of collaborative visual research and on the potentials of visual methods to disturb normative representations/perceptions of oppressed groups. A subversive idea that structures most of his text (and research) is that of queering the standard academic practice of anonymity in data collection/distribution in favour of literate/informed participation in collaborative, experimental video-making. Although unacknowledged, Piemontese’s thick descriptions of ethnographic work strongly draws from Pink’s sensory ethnography in that his positionality, previous experiences and multi-sense engagement with “Romanian Roma youngsters living between Spain and Romania” enable a continuous reflexive and flexible approach to research, which in turn evidences that much of academic practice is structured along class lines, and that genuine collaboration emerges when the research process allows for “unpreparedness, indecision, and failure [which] are fundamental ingredients of the co-writing process as they truly promote the creation of non-hierarchical relations” (p. 192).
Although it is clear that the relatively uncharted territory of overlaps and entanglements among migration, ICTs, media practices and affordances needs to be critically addressed (Oiarzabal & Reips, 2012; Ponzanesi & Leurs 2014), the “turn to the digital” suggested by Leurs and Prabhakar (2018), needs to be contextualized within a wider discussion that also takes class into account, as evidenced through Piemontese’s contribution in this volume. Even when doublings and intersections among migrants, software and hardware happens intuitively and organically, class impacts on their form and purpose. In a recent publication, Patterson and Leurs argue for the connection of gender and sexuality to transnational identities (2019). In their paper, the distinction between forced migrants and expatriates is utilised to explain the differences in capital among both groups. However, as Darvin’s empirical research on (poly)media practices of two adolescent Filipino migrants evidences, social class plays a major role in the unequal accumulation of cultural and social capital (2018, p. 26). Class and status also structure information networks of migrants (Morgunova, 2019). Thus, while the question of (il)legality and polymediation (Tyma, Herrmann & Herbig, 2015) is paramount for migration studies, attention also needs to be paid to class-inscribed factors when researching active participation of migrant population in the knowledge economy.
Against this background, the relevance of ICT literacy and digital literacy for the study of migration becomes clear. The concept of media literacy includes the contextual exploration of the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media outputs. Media literacy allows for a better understanding of the conditions of production, distribution, and reception of media outputs, whether these are created by individuals or by organizations. Importantly, in the expanded context of new media, media literacy involves the awareness of the question of human agency and non-human agency. An expected extension of media literacy is the awareness and engagement in media justice, understood as advocacy to demand ethical standards and institutional policies to ensure equality of access to media and to education on media. In short, for Belting’s triad and the “turn to the digital” to work beyond the Global North and capitalist patriarchy, the socio-material approach to technological mediations needs to be intersectional (Collins, 1999; Crenshaw, 1991). Thereby, Wajcman’s “technofeminism” (2004) appears as a plausible and effective meta-framework (Chen, 2019). Emergent perspectives in migration studies need to pay attention to class-inscribed, racial, and gendered bodies in digital and analogue contexts. These contributions in this clearly question normative understandings of ethics in research and provide valuable insights into the pragmatics of Mitchell’s pictorial turn, and destabilise the prominent (or shall I say exclusive?) focus on text production in academia and the concept of authorship. Furthermore, the authors have taken on the task of offering methodological alternatives to the exploration of mobilities with and through the visual, as well as discussing plausible ways of establishing a concrete field of study, namely that of visual research methods for/with migration.
Contemporary visual research in Migration Studies needs to account for lived experiences, personal practical knowledge and told stories. Commonplace visual research outputs, such as the visual essay (Pauwels, 2012; Krase and Shortell, Chap. 8, in this volume), could provide entry points as well as insights into formal and informal aspects of the politics of belonging (Brubaker, 2010, pp. 65–66), which in turn may help to both critically examine and denounce “sophisticated technologies of regulation and control” (ibid., p. 77) of migrants. Three (f)actors are key in the visual research process: the image, which stands for the socially agreed meaning; the participant, who has his/her own story; and the researcher, who elaborates a story fed by images, field-work and theory (ibid.). On the one hand, this frame of work for visual narrative research builds onto Hannah Arendt’s distinction and relations of labour, work, and action (1958). On the other hand, a post-modern sensibility brings with it an intention to stay open and to actively listen to participants. Working visually means to renegotiate continuously and thus researchers need to “[...] trust and allow for uncertainty to be present” (Bach, 2007, p. 291). Stories are told through diverse and coexisting media materialized through strategies such as the use of body language or the inclusion of pictures next to a verbal narration. The technological, social, cultural, and historical contexts in which material qualities of media emerge influence meaning making.
Bacon, Desille and Pate’s contribution (Chap. 12, in this volume) is a reflective piece on an event that brought activists, artists, and academics together to discuss migration. Creating a place of diversity for discussion to happen already counteracts the standard working modus and “scientific” content of academic events, which as the authors argue, limits the possibilities for impact and longevity beyond the ivory tower. Processes of collective inhabitation/emplacement, such as those at the Equitable Café, evidence the importance of Belting’s triad - body, medium, image - not only in enabling migrants’/participants’ agencies and voices to emerge, but also in producing lasting and transformative effects. While reading through the Bacon et al. piece, I kept wondering to what extent the flattening power of the Equitable Café was due to the positionality of some of the researchers as migrants themselves. In fact, most of the contributions in this volume are written by migrants, researching their peers. In my own work, sharing my migrant past/present with my participants certainly changed how they perceived me. I saw and felt it. At the start of my fieldwork, the migration background worked as an ice breaker to explain my research interest. Later on, participants shared anecdotes and memories related to the perks and losses of living abroad knowing that I was able to walk in their shoes to a certain extent. Since then, I have started to greatly appreciate the advantages of a shared background and life experience in creating a relationship of trust and empathy with research participants. At the same time, I approach it with great caution, as while being able to draw comparisons with our own life experiences, as researchers, we still need to be open to the element of surprise, which often means retracing the conversation to ask for clarification, so that intersubjective and tacit knowledge can be unveiled. Perhaps the best tool researchers have to sharpen their awareness is self-reflection, which many practice through field-notes, myself included. “I have learnt to disclose some information about my personal life as a strategy to gain rapport and trust from my participants. It is a tricky point this one because I do not want them to be my confidants or my shoulder-support but I feel they need to know more about myself in order to disclose more information and feel at ease. I still have doubts about the kind of relationship that we have” (Field-notes, September, 2013).
In “Crafting an event, an event on craft”, Bacon et al. further highlight the potential for visual methods to disrupt systemic asymmetries (p. 246). In reflecting on the specific socio-cultural circumstances of migrants, the authors evidence the shortcomings of customary ethical procedures in research - such as parental consent - and the empowering possibilities of symmetrical and collective experimentations of citizenship. Importantly, Bacon et al.’s contribution signals the ultimate paradox of collaborative (visual) research: visibility without presence, the former enabled through representation, the latter curtailed/negated through (state) authorities. This contradiction brings me to a discussion of essential significance in contemporary migration studies, namely, the right to remain invisible, or the right to disappear.
2 The Right to Disappear
In “Have you just taken a picture of me?”, we are confronted with the ultimate paradox for visual sociologists: raising awareness about a social issue while respecting people’s right to remain invisible. From Lewis Hine’s work at the start of the twentieth century, to John Stanmeyer’s awarded depiction of contemporary entanglements between migration and ICTs, photography, as a place and time based medium, “serves well the purposes of “locating transnationalism”, showing directly that so-called “foreign” or “exotic” practices, associations, and alike are located in a new homeland and constitute a part of it.” (Nikielska-Sekula, Chap. 2, in this volume, p. 38). But, what about the agency – and rights – of those depicted? Well, some of Nikielska-Sekula’s participants, namely Norwegian Turks living in Drammen, actively exercised their right to be represented in their own terms, or not to be depicted at all. It must be noted that these interactions happened in public spaces. Nikielska-Sekula turned to Pink’s sensory ethnography (2006, 2011) – which incorporates Bourdieu’s pledge for reflexive sociology – as a way not only to transform the process of data gathering into data for analysis in itself, but also as a generative solution to navigate agency and participation in spite of the structural limitations imposed onto academic researchers (via ethics committees and other systems of sanctification that, pledging to safeguard the integrity of research, often end up protecting interests of legalistic and neoliberal nature).
Augustová’s research (Chap. 11, in this volume) deals with the fringes of migration. Her work with displaced men along the “Balkan Route”, is intricate and sophisticated, while profoundly human and empathic. At the start of her contribution, Augustová succinctly summarises the problems with quick photojournalism, the only kind that seems to be featured in mainstream media nowadays. Although the ethos of (photo)journalists still responds to the urgency of documenting and reporting situations of violence, despair and other emergencies, their work on the ground responds to neo-liberal logics of productivity, profit generation and swiftness. Under these precarious working conditions, (photo)journalists lack – at the very least – the time to engage with those being portrayed. This accelerated reporting very often reproduces exploitation, risks and (visual) stereotypes. As Augustová rightly points out, it becomes a matter of dignity. Her research design responds to this situation by dilating time and allowing for complexity to emerge. The combination of photo-voice, photo-elicitation and fieldwork builds the frame of her approach, which is fleshed out by a continuous re-negotiation of access and use of data. She notes that her research design allowed for insights into restricted or forbidden places and practices to be elicited; for meanings and interpretations to be set in motion, narratively and personally; and for participants to obtain evidence – proof of institutional value – of their migratory journeys. However, what I found profoundly radical is that her work built future not only for the researcher but also for participants. The visual narratives generated surpass both the immediacy of journalistic reporting, and the slowness of academic knowledge production, while preserving participants right to disappear. This is what I would call genuinely working with participants in partnership. Following Azoulay’s proposal, by fostering prolonged observation and demonstrating responsibility towards the emergencies being photographed, Augustová’s work truly opposes “the absolute conquest of the world as a picture” (2005, p. 43).
With her work on the citizenry of photography, Azoulay reminded us – already over a decade ago – that the conditions of the visible in the photographic era are of political and ideological nature foremost (2005, pp. 40–42). All contributions in this volume point out that the socio-cultural agreement upon which the photograph and photography was first built, is not only infelicitous today, but it also provokes/perpetuates inequalities and discrimination, or in short violence and pain. The (migrant) public no longer trusts the photographer. “She [the photojournalist] came and just took many photos of my injuries and my face, although I said no face. After, she sat in a café, edited her photos and left back to the US. How does this help me? She knew nothing about me”. (Imad quoted in Augustová, p. 200). Neither is there trust placed on contemporary spectators. “Pedro: […] So if it is somebody’s name day and you go to sing to her/his bed and everybody is in their pyjamas and they have bad hair and so on, well I might send those photographs to parents and siblings and that is it. Maria: And to one very good friend. Yes, somebody who knows me but not the neighbor.” (quoted in Prieto-Blanco, 2016, pp. 144–145).
It is perhaps helpful here to note that my reflections are based on the work presented in this volume, as well as on my own practice as a visual sociologist engaging with questions of migration and visual mediations of (dis)affect and kinship. Thus, allow me to briefly introduce my research before offering raw extracts from my field-notes. I am deeply interested in the ways in which migrants employ visual means to stay in touch with geographically distant family members. In order to explore this, I worked with eleven Irish-Spanish families living in Ireland for over eighteen months. The research design incorporated elements of visual sociology (Becker, 1974; Harper, 2012; Pauwels, 2012; Pink, 2011, 2011a) and narrative inquiry (Bach, 2007; Bell, 2013; Squire, 1995). Importantly, it included an original three-stepped consent process; a circle of reference visualization (employed to surpass traditionally heteronormative categorizations of family, in the spirit of Weston, 1997); and a visual tour of photographic displays at the families’ homes. These enabled the elicitation of tacit and intersubjective knowledge about visual practices of mediation of (dis)affect. (Fig. 18.1)
The data demonstrated “that photographic exchanges generate third places of (dis)affect and intimacy where transnational families negotiate normative notions of kinship” (Prieto-Blanco, 2016, vii); and that “strategies of inclusion and exclusion implemented by these families impact the very concept of family (ibid.).” Overall, I argued that “digital photography is a medium of (inter)action and experience for transnational families (ibid.).” But what is more important to note here are the reflections on visual research methods and visual sociology, precipitated by a continuous ethnographic engagement with the families. Back then I asked myself, how can personal photography be discussed without incorporating something of ourselves into the text? (ibid., p.70). After engaging with the contributions in this volume and revisiting Azoulay’s work, I wonder, how can, indeed, photography at large be discussed, contemplated, work, without mobilising our inner selves in the process?
Azoulay’s civil contract of photography reclaims the act of being photographed as well as prolonged and engaged observations as ways to counteract the oppressive and colonial gaze of nation-states. Fardy proposes to understand this defiance of the traditional photographic system of representation “as an instance of civil disobedience” (2017, p. 185). Thus, participating in the citizenry of photography as takers, sharers, viewers, becomes a feasible option to connect humanly with distant peers “in a way that essentially escapes control” (Azoulay 2005, p. 39). Photographic citizens act together, they are bound by their defiance and their visible denunciations. But, what does it mean then, choosing to remain invisible? Is it just about compliance? About obedience? And of more relevance for the readership here, how can visual researchers evidence violence and demand justice without putting individuals at risk?
Visual researchers, most notably visual sociologists, have long argued that images highlight the importance of participatory research practices and account for tacit and intersubjective knowledge (Becker, 1973, 2003; Loenhoff, 2011). However, much of the visual research produced since its onset prominently features people’s faces, thereby unmistakably curtailing research participants’ power by transforming them from active agents to objects of display. While this may respond to a call for “phenomenological sociology” (Harper, 1988, p. 1) as a way to deconstruct legitimated and naturalised narratives in order to make alternative ones visible (Bal, 2003, p. 22), I cannot avoid to wonder, is there a way to emplace narratives without imposing the burden of enduring presence onto research participants? I went back to my field-notes searching for answers.
“I am confronting my errors and talking in a very open way to Y today and while I consider this visit part of the field-work I have no intention of taking any photos or recording of our chat. I have the devices with me (…) but I need to focus first on re-connecting with Y. (…) Y had to pick up his/her child at the nursery so we walked and continued talking. (…) Back at home, the coziness of a cup of coffee shared over biscuits opened up a space of more concrete topics: my research, his/her participation. The child was having lunch and he/she also participated in our chat. I talked to the child and asked him/her about his/her friends, the summer in Spain and the food. A feeling of complicity was generated. I felt closer and freer. I felt I could count on Y again for the research. Y must have felt the same because she/he asked me then what she/he could do for me.” (Field-notes, February, 2014).
Today, I have come to understand that every single research question is about the researcher’s self, as much as about the field out there. While re-reading my field-notes, along with the passage above, I found others in which I reflected about the research process as it was taking place. Much of the discussion about visual research methods, in fact, has focused on what and how to do while in the field. But there are two other pieces missing in these debates. First, we ought to evaluate the ways in which data is processed and analyzed. As Frers rightly highlights, “[d]ata are also embodied memories” (Chap. 5, in this volume) and how we carry these around with us and within us, matters. Second, we need to reflect more on “the ways we present our studies” (Cambre, 2019). The life of research outputs and artefacts expands beyond what we are able to control. That is a fact. However, we have a choice on how to display the results of our investigations, and this choice determines our participants’ right to disappear (Figs. 18.2 and 18.3).
The concerns outlined above were part of the preparatory discussions to this volume, during which I proposed discussing the right to disappear. When articulating the citizenry of photography, Azoulay reported about a photographic encounter between reporter Zvi Gilat from Israeli newspaper Hadashot,Footnote 4 translator Amira Hassan, photographer Mikki Kratzam and Mrs. Abu-Zohir, who insisted in her rubber bullet wounds being photographed. “[H]er right to be photographed did not oblige anyone to see the photo (nor any editor to publish it). But she acted, nonetheless, as if it was her right to demand her photo to be taken, and everyone else’s duty to see it.” (2005, p. 39). This example clearly informs us of the manifold moments that occur in the civil contract of photography. The right to be photographed does not equal the right to disseminate the photograph. Agreeing to participate in photographic production is not a blank sheet for the resulting photographs to be shared at will. A tacit interpretation which implies otherwise would mean the perpetuation of oppression, and the further legitimation of “the process of “conquering the world as a picture”” (2005, p. 39). What does this mean for visual sociologists? How can our work ensure both granting participants the right to be photographed, as well as limiting it to the extent they are comfortable with? This is where in conversation with Nikielska-Sekula and Desille, the right to disappear emerged. It entails a profound and systematic approach to research ethics, which may be materialized by periods of prolonged observation, building of trust and rapport with participants, constant re-negotiation of the conditions of participation, fostering of reflective and evaluative thinking among participants and researchers working in partnerships, honest acknowledgment of mistakes, and the realisation that faces and other identifiable features, while aesthetically pleasing and alluring, may put participants at unnecessary risk.
In this volume, Nikielska-Sekula’s contribution clearly details how she honoured her participants’ right to disappear by not featuring people on the images produced as part of her research. Through the combination of participant observation, photo-voice and photo-elicitation, Augustová nurtured reflexive thinking and a critical appraisal of research among her participants, which resulted in an agreement to feature images “that did not contain any identifying features and those that the men assigned rigorous narratives” (Chap. 2, in this volume, p. 202). Honouring participants’ right to disappear should be seen as an extension of participatory research approaches (van den Riet, 2008; Gaventa & Cornwall, 2008), as it clearly limits the power she, the researcher, had over the data, its dissemination and afterlife. The images produced as a result of honouring the right to disappear will not conform to dominant regimes of visuality. That is not what these images are made for. Instead, as visual sociologists, we aim to extend the partnership of the field and of the moment of photographing/being photographed, onto the moment of contemplation/spectatorship. We aim to do so not only as a way of waking up from the sluggishness of the spectacle (Debord, 1973), neither just to surpass the dichotomy of producer/viewer (Ranciere, 2009), but to being (dis)affectively involved at all levels. We aim to produce “images that require the labour of feeling with or through them” (Campt 2019, p. 80), as refusing the paradigm of evidence, trace and externalisation, allows for intimate moments of connection to emerge even at a distance.
If I may, I’d like to finish this afterword with an image and the statement of an ongoing project of mine: transit. I believe it articulates most of the concerns outlined here, and while it still needs to grow, it is allowing me to test ways to honour active participation, refusal, and the right to disappear.
3 Transitions. Changes. Being on the Move. What Is That All About?
Trying to go back to spaces of the past is futile. Instead, nomadic-world-citizens wear their homes in their bodies. They transform meaningless spaces into places of intimate interaction. Thereby, they wander the world and are always at home. And abroad. At the same time. They are composites, assemblages on perpetual construction. (Fig. 18.4)
This body of work explores the transitions of two nomadic-world-citizens who left their country of origin several years ago. They have moved houses a few times. However, their search for home is still ongoing. Bringing together all the places where they have lived since they arrived on the green island is a way to become aware of their fractured, yet somehow connected identity. This in turn throws the ball back at you: when does a house become your home?
These telecommunicative spaces have otherwise been named tele-cocoons, which is also a verb. Habuchi coined the term: “(...) a zone of intimacy in which people can continuously maintain their relationships with others who they have already encountered without being restricted by geography and time” (2005, p. 167).
Habitus is “a subjective but not individual system of internalized structures, schemes of perception, conception, and action common to all members of the same group” (Bourdieu 1977, p. 86). Moores’ recent proposal to move beyond a textualist approach to the analysis of mediations also includes working with Bourdieu’s social theory of practice in order to counteract the phenomenological tendency to generalisms (Moores, 2018, p. 15). In my exploration of photographic practices of transnational families, I also suggested such an approach (Prieto-Blanco, 2016a).
Hadashot was established in 1984 by Haaretz group as a left-wing anti-establishment newspaper. It became a bit more conservative with time, and finally shut down in 1993.
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Prieto-Blanco, P. (2021). Afterword: Visual Research in Migration. (In)Visibilities, Participation, Discourses. In: Nikielska-Sekula, K., Desille, A. (eds) Visual Methodology in Migration Studies. IMISCOE Research Series. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67608-7_18
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