2019 AAG Paper Session on Visual Methodologies in Critical Geography

My colleague Noelani Eidse (McGill University) and I are organizing a series of paper sessions at the 2019 AAG Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. See below call for papers:

Picturing Power: Innovative Visual Methods in Critical Geography

“The very heart of geography – the search for our sense of place and self in the world – is constituted by the practice of looking and is, in effect, a study of images”
-Aitken and Zonn, 1994: 7

For centuries, geography-art relations have shaped the ways in which we imagine and know the world (Hawkins, 2013). Yet, only in recent years have geographers acknowledged the extent to which the discipline depends upon visualities—saturated with power relations—for knowledge production (Rose, 2003). Empirically, visual methods move beyond discursive representations of lived experiences, aiming instead to facilitate collaborative knowledge production, increase participants’ tools for self-representation and balance power in researcher-respondent relationships. Participatory visual methods, for example, can lend analytical insight into the everyday politics of life on the ‘margins’ of dominant societies, and can render (more) visible groups that may otherwise be obscured. In the process, visualities become extensions of citizenship (Matless, 1996), as highlighted in queer (Zebracki, 2017; Browne et al., 2017), feminist (Kindon, 2003; McIntyre, 2003), youth (Jeffrey and Dyson, 2008), cultural (Cresswell, 2009), and political (Peluso, 1995) geographies.

Since the acceleration of the ‘visual turn’ in the early 2000s, visual methods have become increasingly recognized as powerful tools for both geographical thought and practice (Thornes, 2004). A wide range of visual approaches to geography have been developed, including photovoice (Wang, 1999; McIntyre, 2003; Castleden et al., 2007); film (Kindon, 2003; Garrett, 2011); portraits (Jeffrey and Dyson, 2008); comic strips (Dittmer, 2010); mapping (Elwood, 2011; Kim, 2015); counter mapping (Peluso, 1995); bricolage (Zebracki, 2017); and other visual art forms (Mackenzie, 2006; Crang, 2010). Visual methods not only serve as empirical entry points to conceptual inquiry, but can also offer innovative analytical frameworks. The incorporation of visual tools within research praxis can likewise contribute to more effective research dissemination—across disciplines and beyond academe—to engage with policymakers, industry and everyday people.

Submissions: This session aims to explore diverse visual methodologies and their applications for critical geographies. Specifically, we encourage submissions that incorporate voices from socially, politically or economically ‘marginal’ populations and explore the use of visual methods as a platform for self-representation and expression.

We welcome submissions addressing visual methodologies in relation to the following (and other) thematic streams in global north and/or south contexts:

1) Identities

Identity and positionality
Expressions of (shadow) citizenship and belonging (Cresswell, 2009)
Self-representation and embodied experiences
Ethnographic case studies

2) Power and politics

Power relations
Everyday politics (Kerkvliet, 1990)
Daily survival strategies
Subaltern urbanisms and informality (Roy, 2011)

3) Methodological considerations and contributions to knowledge

Collaborative knowledge production
Innovation in knowledge production praxis and the ‘mechanics’ of visual methodologies
Reflecting on methodological challenges, limitations and ethics

We value contributions from community organizers, practitioners, activists and researchers. We encourage submissions from individuals who identify as LGBT*QI, indigenous, people of colour, people with disabilities, and women. Building on our AAG session, we aim to put together a special issue on visual methodologies in critical geography.

Interested participants should submit an abstract by October 20th to both of the organizers at: noelani.eidse@mail.mcgill.ca and melody.lynch@mail.mcgill.ca. Submissions should be in PDF or MS Word format and must include a title, abstract (max 250 words), keywords, author(s) name, affiliation, and contact information. Feel free to contact the organizers if you have any questions. Submissions will be acknowledged by email within 48 hours of receipt.

This session will be partnering with one titled Teaching the Anthropocene: New Visions, New Visualizations?” Organized by Dr. Megan Dixon (College of Idaho) and Prof. Innisfree McKinnon (University of Wisconsin-Stout).


Aitken, S. and Zonn, L. (1994). Place, power, situation and spectacle: a geography of film. Rowman and Littlefield: Totowa, NJ.
Browne, K, Banerjea, N., McGlynn, N., Sumita, B., Bakshi, L., Banerjee R. and Biswas, R. (2017). Towards transnational feminist queer methodologies. Gender, Place & Culture, 24(10), 1376-1397.
Castleden, H., Garvin, T. and Huu-ay-aht First Nation (2007). Modifying photovoice for community-based participatory indigenous research. Social Science & Medicine, 66(6), 1393-1405.
Crang, M. (2010). Visual methods and methodologies. In: D. Delyser, S. Herbert, S. Aitken, M. Crang and L. McDowell (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Geography (pp. 208–225). London: Sage.
Cresswell, T. (2009). The prosthetic citizen: new geographies of citizenship. In: Political Power and Social Theory (pp. 259-273). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Dittmer, J. (2010). Comic book visualities: a methodological manifesto on geography, montage and narration. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 35(2), 222–236.
Elwood, S. (2011) Geographic information science: visualization, visual methods, and the geoweb. Progress in Human Geography, 35(3): 401–408.
Garrett, B. (2011). Videographic geographies: using digital video for geographic research. Progress in Human Geography, 35(4), 521-541.
Hawkins, H. (2013). For Creative Geographies: Geography, Visual Arts and the Making of Worlds. London: Routledge.
Jeffrey, C. and Dyson, J. (2008). Telling Young Lives: Portraits in Global Youth. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Kim, A. (2015). Sidewalk City: Re-Mapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City. University of Chicago Press.
Kindon, S. (2003). Participatory video in geographic research: a feminist practice of looking?, Area, 35(2), 142-153.
Mackenzie, A. and Fiona, D. (2006). ‘Against the tide’: placing visual art in the highlands and islands, Scotland. Social and Cultural Geography, 7(6): 965–985.
Matless, D., (1996). Visual culture and geographical citizenship: England in the 1940s. Journal of Historical Geography, 22(4), 424-439.
McIntyre, A. (2003) Through the eyes of women: Photovoice and participatory research as tools for reimagining place. Gender, Place and Culture, 10(1): 47-66.
Peluso, N. L. (1995). Whose woods are these? Counter-mapping forest territories in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Antipode, 27(4): 383-406.
Rose, G. (2003). On the need to ask how, exactly, is geography ‘visual’?, Antipode, 35(2), 212–221.
Roy, A. (2011). Slumdog cities: rethinking subaltern urbanism. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35(2), 223-238.
Thornes, J.E. (2004). The visual turn and geography (response to Rose 2003 intervention). Antipode, 36(5).
Wang, C. (1999). Photovoice: a participatory action research strategy applied to women’s health. Journal of Women’s Health, 8(2).
Zebracki, M. (2017). Queer bricolage. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 16(3), 605-606.