Recently published in the AAG Review of Books is my review of A Recipe for Gentrification, edited by Alison Hope Alkon, Yuki Kato and Joshua Sbicca. The full review can be accessed online here.
Just published in Social Indicators Research:
Conceptualisation and Operationalisation of a Holistic Indicator of Health for Older Inuit: Results of a Sequential Mixed‑Methods Project
Abstract: Elder Inuit define health as holistic and multifaceted, which contrasts with health-related research where single factor indicators are usually used to measure health in an Inuit con-text. As the number of Inuit elders is growing, indicators derived from an Inuit definition of health are important if health systems are to be inclusive of the realities of Indigenous Peoples and culture. This study explored and operationalised a model of Inuit health in aging that draws from physical, emotional, spiritual, and interpersonal components identified as salient by participants in this research. Qualitative data gathered through two workshops with 21 participants were analysed to identify key dimensions of health from an Inuit perspective. Quantitative data were retrieved from Statistics Canada Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS; 2006) with a weighted sample of 4450 Inuit aged ≥ 50 years residing across Inuit Nunangat. Using measures corresponding to the dimensions identified previously, Latent Class Analyses were applied to group survey participants into health pro-files to create a holistic indicator of health. Multinomial regressions were conducted with related health and social measures to assess the concurrent validity of the indicator. Health was conceptualised along eight themes: general health balance, mental health, spirituality, not experiencing many activity limitations, being loved and having positive relationships, speaking Inuktitut, and being free of addiction. The holistic indicator grouped participants into three health profiles: (1) good health for most variables; (2) very good perceived and physical health, but poor mental health; and (3) poor health for most variables. Using mixed methods to bridge the concept of health defined in qualitative workshops with quantitative health indicators can contribute to the definition and description of a culturally relevant and sociologically complex understanding of healthy aging in an Inuit context.
Keywords: Cultural models of health, Inuit, mixed-methods, holistic indicator of health, aging
The full article can be viewed online here.
Between 2017-2019, I worked as the Project Coordinator for the community component of the most recent regional Nunavimmiut health survey called Qanuilirpitaa? (How are we now?). I am pleased to share that the results are now published on the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services website.
Reports are available on the following themes: mental health and wellness; sociocultural determinants of health and wellness; substance use; iron deficiency and anemia; oral health; respiratory health; unintentional injuries; housing and drinking water; and sociodemographic characteristics.
Fletcher, C., Riva, M., Lyonnais, M.C., Saunders, I., Baron, A., Lynch, M. and Baron, M. December 2020. Development of the “IQI” Inuit health model and community-level social determinants of health in Nunavik, Health, Well-Being and the Social Determinants of Health in the North. Arctic Change, Virtual Conference.
Please see below call for papers. This virtual paper session will be part of the 2021 AAG Annual Meeting, and is sponsored by the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group. Registration is open online here.
Title: Fresh thoughts on stale issues: youth intersections with critical geographies of food
Organizer: Melody Lynch (McGill University) melody.lynch [at] mcgill.ca
Abstract submission deadline: October 30th, 2020
Geographers and other social scientists have been increasingly investigating the ways in which food practices both stimulate and are influenced by political, social, and ecological life (Bell and Valentine 1997; Guthman 2008; Nestle 2013). While critical food scholarship has revealed some intersectional dynamics underpinning struggles over resources, culture and identity in relation to food, relatively little has examined generational rifts.
The structural forces behind our food systems have yielded generational disparities across the globe (Hadley et al. 2009). Many young people can no longer afford to farm or fish (White 2015). Some are engaging less in traditional or indigenous foodways, and/or develop new food consumption patterns influenced by globalization and our capitalist food regime (Pingali 2004; Panelli and Tipa 2009; Bugge 2011; Best 2014).
At the same time, youth accumulate and consume differently than previous generations once did as their aspirations and motivations in many cases are shifting away from those of their parents (Edwards and Mercer 2007; Collins and Hitchings 2012; Diprose et al. 2019). Youth are widely considered both ‘learners’ and ‘makers’ of culture who reproduce and transform the fabric of society (Berckmoes and White 2014). Additionally, they are increasingly recognized as effective political agents (Jeffrey 2011; Delgado 2015). With food practices at the heart of our social and cultural identities, the ways in which young people engage in food production, consumption, and activism present important implications relating to processes of social and ecological transformation.
Call for Submissions
This virtual paper session will explore diverse youth experiences with food and the broader applications of such work for critical food geographies. This session aims to engage multidisciplinary research in order to bridge thematic and geographic divides within the literature. Submissions are welcome in relation to the following (and other) thematic streams in ‘Global South’ and/or ‘North’ contexts:
1. Young people and food movements
– Food justice
– Food sovereignty
2. Food and youth culture and identity
– New and ‘traditional’ foodways
– Expressions of citizenship and belonging
3. Young people in agriculture, hunting, gathering, or fishing
– Youth motivations and aspirations
– Intergenerational knowledge
– Rural-urban dynamics
4. Youth/nutrition transitions
– Generational changes in tastes and preferences
– Food access and health implications
– Globalization and food
Contributions are welcomed from youth, students, community organizers, practitioners, activists and researchers. Submissions are encouraged from individuals who identify as LGBTQI+, indigenous, people of color, people with disabilities, and women. Interested participants should submit an abstract (max 250 words) by October 30th to melody.lynch [at] mcgill.ca.
Bell, D. J. and Valentine, G. (1997). Consuming geographies: We are where we eat. Psychology Press.
Berckmoes, L. H. and White, B. (2016). Youth, farming, and precarity in rural Burundi. In: Huijsmans, R. (Ed.) Generationing Development (pp. 291-312). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
Best, A. L. (2014). Youth consumers and the fast-food market: The emotional landscape of micro-encounters. Food, Culture & Society, 17(2), 283-300.
Bugge, A. B. (2011). Lovin’it? A study of youth and the culture of fast food. Food, Culture & Society, 14(1), 71-89.
Collins, R. and Hitchings, R. (2012). A tale of two teens: disciplinary boundaries and geographical opportunities in youth consumption and sustainability research. Area, 44(2), 193-199.
Diprose, K., Valentine, G., Vanderbeck, R. M., Liu, C. and McQuaid, K. (2019). Building common cause towards sustainable consumption: A cross-generational perspective. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 2(2), 203-228.
Delgado, M. (2015). Youth and food justice. In: M. Delgado (Ed.) Community practice and urban youth: Social justice service-learning and civic engagement (pp. 154-164). Routledge.
Edwards, F. and Mercer, D. (2007). Gleaning from Gluttony: an Australian youth subculture confronts the ethics of waste. Australian Geographer, 38(3), 279-296.
Guthman, J. (2008). Neoliberalism and the making of food politics in California. Geoforum, 39(3), 1171-1183.
Hadley, C., Belachew, T., Lindstrom, D., & Tessema, F. (2009). The forgotten population? Youth, food insecurity, and rising prices: implications for the global food crisis. NAPA bulletin, 32(1), 77-91.
Jeffrey, C. (2012) Geographies of children and youth III: Alchemists of revolution? Progress in Human Geography, 37(1), 145-152.
Nestle, M. (2013). Food politics: How the food industry influences nutrition and health (Vol. 3). Univ of California Press.
Panelli, R. and Tipa, G. (2009). Beyond foodscapes: Considering geographies of indigenous well-being. Health & Place, 15(2), 455-465.
Pingali, P. (2004). Westernization of Asian diets and the transformation of food systems: implications for research and policy. ESA Working Paper 04-17, Food and Agriculture Organization, 1-18.
White, B. (2015). Generational dynamics in agriculture: reflections on rural youth and farming futures. Cahiers Agricultures, 24, 330-334.
Join my colleagues Peter Garber, Mélie Monnerat, Patrick Slack, and myself at our panel on commodities, contentions, and contradictions in Southeast Asian Agriculture on October 17th. This panel will be part of the 2020 annual meeting of the New England Conference of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), hosted online by the University of Vermont.
Title: Marginality, Materiality and Maneuverability: Commodities, Contentions, and Contradictions in Southeast Asian Agriculture
Organizer: Melody Lynch, McGill University; Chair: Patrick Slack, McGill University
Abstract: Contemporary agriculture in Southeast Asia is largely shaped by contentions and contradictions in both policy and practice. This panel unpacks some of the social, economic, environmental and political tensions in rural and urban farming in the region. We do this through themes of marginality, materiality, and maneuverability.
From rural-to-urban migrants cultivating crops on abandoned city lots, to ethnic minority farmers working in vast rural landscapes, this panel muses on meanings of marginality in diverse Southeast Asian agricultural settings. With land representing many facets of marginality for certain populations, we discuss the implications of land rights and access in different contexts. We draw upon the concept of materiality to explore the complex web of entanglements that relate plants, animals, and humans with the systems and institutions that hope to reform them in present-day agriculture. Governance schemes, global economic processes and environmental factors seemingly dictate who is able to farm, what, where, and under which conditions. This panel explores the ways in which rural and urban farmers creatively maneuver the natural, built, socio-economic, and political landscapes in order to farm on their own terms. These frictions materialize in various forms; farmers plant gardens on city sidewalks, transition to cash-crops, navigate new precarious markets, or create new relationships with old animal allies.
The contentions that characterize agricultural production yield many contradictions. In cities, people increasingly attempt to meet their food demands by farming within city limits, while urbanization consumes surrounding agricultural lands. In upland Vietnam, ethnic minority farmers at the margins of the state are essential for the cultivation of spices in the iconic breakfast soup phở, yet contentious and contradicting policies hinder the cultivation of them. Beyond spice cultivation, many of these ethnic minority farmers also rely on water buffalo for working in their rice fields, although extreme weather events and government programs are rapidly disentangling this human-animal relationship.
Follow us as we trace cinnamon commodity chains, peek into the production of black cardamom, contemplate farming in its urban context, and investigate the changing relationships between humans and domesticated animals. The curious contentions and contradictions we uncover through themes of marginality, materiality, and maneuverability reveal important insights into the realm of Southeast Asian agriculture today.
Join us online on October 17th! Registration information can be found here on the conference webpage.
As part of the Food Justice Scholar-Activist/Activist-Scholar (FJSAAS) community of practice, colleagues Robin Lovell, Sahil Patni, Angelika Winner and I set out to answer the question: can small-scale regenerative agriculture feed the world? We conducted a literature review of academic articles published from 2007 to present and created an annotated bibliography for Soul Fire Farm, a black, indigenous, and people of colour-centered community farm in upstate New York. Here is a brief summary of what we found:
A review of the literature written between 2007 and 2020 indicates that small-scale regenerative agriculture can indeed feed the world, but would require economic, dietary, policy, and cultural shifts. In terms of yields, smallholder farming already accounts for well over half of the world’s food supply. Additionally, while conventional (industrial) forms of agriculture have previously been thought to be more efficient, current research has found that organic production can have greater yields in various contexts. Local and organic farming can also be more resilient to shocks and a changing climate, which can support a more reliable food supply over time. However, while it is technically possible to continue to produce the calories needed for a growing global population through small-scale regenerative agriculture, there are social, economic, and political barriers that need to be addressed. Small-scale organic farming alone can only provide enough calories with a dietary shift away from animal products such as meat and dairy, and if inequities in food distribution can be eliminated. The reduction of food waste also needs to be prioritized. Furthermore, in many places around the world, local and organic food is often more expensive and therefore only accessible to privileged groups. As such, in order for alternative agriculture to feed the world, we need to address underlying inequalities, such as class, gender, race, and educational disparities. Additionally, organic forms of agriculture tend to be labor-intensive. This is a major concern when scaling up alternative food production in a just way, given that many organic farms depend on cheap or voluntary labor. It is also argued that producer and consumer networks must be strengthened in order for small-scale regenerative agriculture to successfully reach all groups of people over the short and long terms. Finally, in order to feed the world, alternative agricultural initiatives need to be scaled up or massified through social organization and mobilization of participating producers and consumers, the horizontal dialog of knowledge, and favorable public policies. Overall, based on this review, it is arguable that the potential of small-scale regenerative agriculture to feed the world is promising. This is particularly so when considering the additional benefits that this type of food production can provide.
For more information about the FJSAAS community of practice, visit our website.
This semester, I am co-teaching a course entitled ‘Geographic Thought and Practice’ with Professor Sarah Turner in the Department of Geography at McGill University. This seminar-style course is meant to prepare undergraduate Honours students for their thesis research.
This course has two principal objectives. The first is to develop a critical perspective on the nature and practice of geography. We trace the history of the discipline and consider different paradigms and theoretical approaches that have been influential in its development. These include but are not limited to humanist, marxist, postcolonial, feminist and queer geographies, as well as critical race theory and political ecology. I am teaching this first section on geographic thought.
The second course objective is to focus on the process of conducting geographical research in preparation for Honours thesis research. We explore the practical and conceptual aspects of project design, examine a range of methods, and debate ethical and reflective concerns. This second section is taught by Professor Sarah Turner.
You can find the full course syllabus here.
In Cairns, Australia, my colleague Ella Myette and I recently presented a new project we are working on led by Professor Mylene Riva entitled Mining Activities, Health, and Well-being in Indigenous Communities at the 3rd Annual MinErAL Network Meeting in Cairns, Australia. This research will focus on defining and including indigenous perspectives of health and well-being into impact assessment processes in Canada, Sweden, and Australia.
Our presentation and those of other MinErAL Network members are available online here.
Thanks to everyone who attended our 5 sessions yesterday on Picturing Power: Innovative Visual Methods in Geography! The day was full of excellent presentations and exciting discussion.
AAG also live-tweeted our second session!
In case you missed the presentations, here is a round-up:
Crafting Images: Exploring fibre-craft’s visual turn
Shannon Black, University of Toronto
In the Global North, fibre-crafters are increasingly turning to visual and digital mediums to showcase their work, exchange ideas, cultivate communities, and generate income. While there are studies that address contemporary craft in online contexts, there is a paucity of research that examines the processes of making fibre-craft visible, and how the increased visuality of craft influences and impacts those working in craft industries. In this multi-media project, I begin to address this gap. Taking up the call for more creative and critical engagement with geographical research, I combine the testimonies of forty-two professionals working in the North American hand knitting industry (i.e., knitting designers, yarn dyers, yarn store owners, yarn manufacturers), with practices of image making and fibre-based craft, to produce a series of images and objects that reflexively engage the complex ways in which the ‘visual’ is bound up in the creative and labour practices, the work and living spaces, subjectivities, communities and politics of this diverse group of actors. The images and objects that are produced provide a conceptual, affective, and imaginative ‘space’ in which to grapple with the impacts of craft’s visual unfolding, and the nebulous political terrain that surrounds the making, consuming and studying of (craft) imagery. Allowing the images and objects to ‘speak for themselves’, they also serve as a medium through which to spark critical and reflexive dialogue with participants and audiences about the visual culture of craft, and the place and politics of arts-based academic research.
‘As it really is’: Representation, obscurity and visual cultures of creative space in Toronto
Loren March, University of Toronto
This paper explores the visual culture surrounding the Creative City, creative entrepreneurship, and art in Toronto. If the image is a central site of communication and meaning-making (Rose, 2014), how does its deployment influence what we think of as creative space, and who we think of as creative? Can the image itself be used to complicate our understandings of creative place? This paper draws upon ethnographic research conducted within Toronto’s largely invisible geography of DIY creative workspaces – studios which are self-made for purposes of creative work. This study of urban placemaking and the production of creative space explores the role of the DIY workspace as a crucial form of creative space in the city that offers creative practitioners a level of spatial stability in the face of gentrification, development and upscaling across the downtown. While they have become essential elements of the Creative City, these spaces essentially constitute ‘non-places’ (Lehrer, 2006; Zukin, 1991) within its more spectacular landscape of formalized, purposive creative space. An exploration of the visual culture surrounding creative workspace, and the role of its image in professional identity and creative practice, reveals how these important spaces exist in a gray area between visible and invisible, private and public, and real and imagined. The paper discusses vernacular photography as a methodological tool in this work, useful in complicating narratives about and understandings of creative space, revealing visual culture as a central aspect of cultural production and placemaking, and uncovering otherwise unapparent contradictions and tensions in everyday life.
Visualizing a political economy of directed practice: graphics as catalysts for thought
Matthew Hannah, Universität Bayreuth
In a just-completed book, I argue that critical socio-spatial theory has systematically neglected the directedness of embodied practice in favor of a one-sided emphasis on distance and proximity. Central to the argument is a series of graphical illustrations, inspired in part by the work of queer theorists Sara Ahmed on “orientation” and David Wills on “dorsality”. These illustrations are developed to represent the embodied character of directed practice and to depict various aspects of “occupation” as a form of power that intersects with more familiar power relations. In a range of unforeseeable ways, the process of developing the graphic illustrations fundamentally re-shaped the course of the argument itself, as graphical elements and decisions suggested unlooked-for reorganizations or enhancements of the conceptual framework. This paper recounts the latter process and invites critical discussion of the graphics themselves in the interest of their further development.
The Digital Production of the Self and Social Space of Rio’s Favelas Through the Analysis of Participatory Imagery
Adrian Gras-Velazquez, Smith College & Jamie Worms, Smith College
The practice of mapping space is no longer reserved for geographers. Access to new technology such as Google Maps has popularized mapping. In 2016, there were 81.4 million mobile phone internet users in Brazil, which accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Brazilian population (Statista, 2018). As opposed to relying on maps produced by the city officials and elite, the power to reproduce social order and discourse through maps is extended, digitally, to those who previously had very little power. In a very similar way, Instagram is a virtual, multi-authored platform that symbolizes geographic realities by capturing time and space specific features or characteristics. Instagram allows users to share photographs representative of their specific experiences in space. As opposed to simply reproducing dominant discourses, Instagram users are collaboratively producing multiple discourses based on their own personal experiences. In accordance with Agamben (2009 ), the authors understand Instagram as a space that can ‘capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviors, opinions, or discourses of living beings’. This paper will follow the term ‘favela’ to analyze the production of space, knowledge, and citizenship in Rio. The objective of this paper is to analyze what participatory, multi-authored representation tells us about the identities and positionalities of those producing the virtual space of favelas. What are the embodied (lived) experiences of favela life? What does self, social, and spatial representation mean in the context of favelas? And, what is the role of Instagram in today’s understanding of the favela space?
The Insta-Gaze: power, images, and stereotypes of Africa
Hilary Hungerford, Utah Valley University & Ang Subulwa, University of Wisonsin-Oshkosh
Instagram–the widely popular photo sharing app–can be a useful tool in critical geographic studies of power and representation of place. This paper presents both a methodological reflection on challenges of using Instagram and an analysis of content about Africa and the perpetuation of common stereotypes. We analyzed thousands of images from 2012-2017 from the Everyday Africa project on Instagram, a project that explicitly aims to combat stereotypes of the continent by presenting what they call pictures of everyday, ‘normal’ life. The Everyday Africa project received critical acclaim and was featured in mainstream media as a transformative project. The creators of this project were two American photojournalists that partner with about a dozen photographers based in cities across the continent. In our analysis of the photographs, our main research question was whether the images on Everyday Africa reinforce or resist stereotypical narratives of the continent, as outlined by Myers (2001), Kiem (2013), and Wainaina (2006 & 2012). Although some alternative narratives emerged in our analysis, these alternative images were not the narratives that people responded to (liked) or engaged with (commented). The photographs that received the most audience engagement overwhelming conformed to common stereotypical representations of the continent, reinforcing long standing power dynamics that shape Western views of the continent.
Telling the Story of Water: Photovoice for Water Research with Urban Indigenous Youth
Joanne Nelson, University of British Columbia
Most Indigenous cultures express a sacred connection to water and these connections to water are reflected in Indigenous legal systems and oral traditions. While the ongoing impacts of colonialism and capitalism have threatened this connection, participatory photography and visual methods, such as Photovoice, emerge as a promising methodology to engage Indigenous youth in telling their stories of how they connect with, perceive, and experience water and water issues in their lives. Indigenous people, including youth, are increasingly making their homes in urban areas. According to the 2016 Canadian census the 867,415 Indigenous people living in a metropolitan area now represent over half (51.8%) of the total Indigenous population: an increase of 59% between 2006 and 2016. Yet, the voice of urban Indigenous people has been largely absent from the growing literature on Indigenous water governance, water stewardship, and Indigenous Knowledge. In this presentation, I will provide a brief literature review on Photovoice and engage with case studies from within that literature that use this visual method with youth and Indigenous communities to understand how the various researchers have sought to Indigenize the Photovoice methodology. I end with an introduction to my proposed research on the relationships between urban Indigenous youth of the Unceded Coast Salish territory of Metro Vancouver have with water. This work aims to understand these relationships and queries how Indigenous Knowledge arising in this context can and does informs Indigenous water stewardship and water governance.
Life in Ruin: Reading images of damage in the Athabasca tar sands
Samantha Spady & Siobhan Angus
Through a case study of photographs of petroleum extraction in Canada’s Athabasca tar sands region, we consider how images inform and complicate how we understand damage and the ongoing possibilities of life in environmental sacrifice zones. In understanding that knowledge, relationships, and struggle are formed and happen in place, in this collaboration we wonder: can we trace the formation of, and consumption of images of extraction in place? To put another way, can we look at looking in place? What can the methods of reading the visual allow us to ask across spaces and times? How might we read images (of places) alongside the place itself? Our method of foregrounding geography places the erasure and dismissal of Indigenous knowledges about land, brought about through the colonization of the Americas and how this relates to contemporary practices of extractive capitalism at the center of our inquiry. We bring together art historical methods with place-based research to read against the singular indexicality of images to instead read them as a “simultaneous environment,” situating it historically and excavating the context of its production.
Using Mixed Photo-Based Methods to Elicit Rural, Toxic Places of Slow Violence
John Henry, University of Kansas
Human geography has embraced both empirical and critical visual methods as valuable forms of illuminating place-based experiences. In relation to the experience of toxic places, geographers have begun theorizing Rob Nixon’s slow violence, in which toxic experiences are compounded over decades of living in place, causing health effects and a gradual degradation of life. Thom Davies builds on slow violence by relying on the slow observations of residents as a lens into the everyday life in toxic places and as a temporal lens of place-based environmental change. This paper bridges the gap between slow violence and critical visual methodologies to show that photo-based methods are suited to illuminate nuanced and hidden experiences, thereby making slow violence visible. My research draws on a combination of open-ended interviews and a mix of photo-based methodologies in which the co-creation of the image adds to the understanding of the hidden nature of industrial toxicity and suffering. I first discuss recent contributions to slow violence. I then analyze visual and critical visual methodologies and their contributions to human geography. Finally, I discuss my case study in which I theorize how the experience of slow violence alters place meaning and show how a comprehensive approach to photo-methodologies allows for flexibility in rural settings, allowing the co-creation of knowledge of hidden toxic places.
What is your water story? Using participatory video to expand understandings of water security and support sustainable management measures in The Sixaola River Basin.
Dacotah-Victoria Splichalova, University of British Columbia
Culturally-shared views and narratives of water fundamentally shape people’s understanding of, and experience of, water (in)security. Moreover, these cultural dimensions extend beyond understanding “water as a resource” to include spirituality, identity, values, stewardship, and a relational sense of responsibility to other beings (collectively referred to as ‘non-material dimensions of water’). Recognizing the influence of non-material dimensions of water may aid in reconciling potential and persistent gaps to address water security. Through a case study of the Sixaola River Basin — a transboundary river basin shared between Costa Rica, Panamá and five indigenous communities: the Bríbrí, Naso, Cabecar, Brunca and Ngöbe, this paper addresses this consequential knowledge gap by employing a community and arts-based participatory research framework by way of engaging communities and institutions as research partners to co-create the data, products, and insights of this project. Participatory video, storytelling and narratives, and photography used to conduct this work were adapted to “the culture and context” of the study area, with the goal of enabling participants to have a stake and voice, shaping the direction, form, and design of this research. In this case, the narratives and non–material dimensions are of critical importance, yet there is little in the way of broader engagement with these questions in other work on water governance. Fundamentally, this paper explores the effectiveness of co-managed research, in particular, participatory video and storytelling to provide critical insights into how meaning systems are operationalized for Sixaola River Basin residents to tell their own stories, in their own words.
Using pictures to collect and study citizens’ perceptions on landscape degradation
Giorgia Bressan, University of Udine & Andrea Guaran, University of Udine
As a result of the continuous interaction between society and environment, the landscape requires constant monitoring to govern its transformations. Its components can be consistent with each other and give the observer a feeling of aesthetic quality, or they may not be integrated and reveal a difficult co-existence between the natural environment and humankind. What can we learn about landscape degradation from the way the people look at the material traces of human activity in the landscapes around them? We argue that respondent-produced photographs offer an opportunity to give voice to lay people, who are generally excluded from the policy-making process, and promote critical reflection on the present state of local landscapes and the co-production of geographical knowledge. The photographs are also potentially an instrument to communicate an insider perspective to those who make decisions on the future of those landscapes. Thus, this work reflects on the implementation and outcomes of a photography competition, launched by our research group, which allowed photography lovers to capture, in a picture, not only the beauty of natural landscapes in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region in Italy, but also the critical aspects in its natural, urban and industrial areas. The photography competition, complemented by photo-elicitation interviews, provided to be a creative data collection method. The photographs enabled the participants to become more aware of the problems afflicting the region and to denounce the inability of local authorities and single citizens to make the best use of the resources around them.
Imagining home, picturing community: newcomer perspectives on immigration and the city
Pablo Bose, University of Vermont
The past few years have witnessed the rise of xenophobic rhetoric and anti-immigrant sentiment in countries of the Global North at a scale unseen in decades. While immigrants from non-European backgrounds have long been racialized in settler societies, the rise of far-right, white nationalist and anti-immigrant political movements and governments across western liberal democracies have ushered in a new age of unsettling visibility and vulnerability for newcomers. How do immigrants see their new homes and communities under such circumstances? In this paper, I draw on one aspect of a much larger project exploring the experience of resettled refugees in smaller cities and towns (rather than large metropolitan gateways) in the US over the past decade. I look at the results of a community-based initiative to use photovoice as a way of identifying places of importance and areas in need of improvement for refugee populations. This effort was meant to map and document such spaces by the research team and to critique and redefine such meaning-making with our community collaborators, all with the goal of intervening in urban planning decisions and investments by the city and state in specific neighborhoods. But in an era of heightened scrutiny and tension within and among immigrant communities, what does it mean to make oneself and one’s significant places so visible—to outsiders of all kinds? In this paper, I explore the ethics, challenges and possibilities of using visual methods such as photovoice as a tool for intervention in the daily life of immigrant neighborhoods.
Ethics and Strategies in Children’s Participatory Mapping of Space and Time
Emily Kaufman, University of Kentucky
If “visual art can propel people into seeing something differently” (Leavy 2015: 228), then as researchers, we can apply this “aesthetic intervention” (hooks 1995) to the co-production, analysis, and dissemination of visual materials. Working with children ages 4—14 to investigate the everyday violence of biospatial policing (Kaufman 2016), we collaborate to produce a range of visual materials. Methods include unprompted sketching, cognitive mapping, and comic-creation, guided by the ‘maker movement approach’ (Compton and Thompson 2018); children map their experiences in space and time (Dittmer 2010: 222). Materials generate conversations between subject and researcher; if disseminated, they may “broadcast pressing social messages in irrefutable ways,” and project children’s voices into realms they are scarcely heard in (Mitchell et al. 2011: 26). Challenges include resistance to art-making by underserved and overdisciplined children (“I’m bad at it” “My art teacher puts me in time out” “if I want to express myself I play videogames”) despite reassurances that content, not artistry matters (Mitchell et al. 2011). While consent procedures mandate respect for refusal, how should we treat resistance based on self-doubt? How can visual methods be informed by an ethics of care (Lawson 2007; Puig de la Bellacasa 2017)? How might participatory art-making empower children under-represented in visual arts (hooks 1995)? This paper explores arts-based research practice, methods most effective in eliciting conversation or policy responses, the practice of care in fieldwork, and ensuing ethical and methodological dilemmas.
Toward Urban Cinesemiotics: Context, Urban Theory and the Dynamicity of an Image-sign
Hamed Goharipour, Kansas State University
In many academic fields today, cinematic representations are rich sources through which researchers recognize and interpret phenomena. Using cinema as the global form of visual texts is both useful and to some extent even necessary in the study of urban phenomena. Geography was probably the first discipline that continuously attempted to conceptualize the notion of ‘cinematic city.’ The relationship between city and cinema, then, has been taken into consideration from the perspective of Art, film and media studies, and architecture. In recent years, although this interdisciplinary topic has been addressed by scholars with the background in urban planning and design, little in the way of effective, continuous utilization of movies in urban studies has occurred. The failure is not necessarily appreciation, but capability; arguably, the lack of an urban-oriented methodology is an important reason why urban studies has not paid deep attention to the cinema to date. From a critical interpretive position, using a qualitative approach, this study has developed a new, dynamic methodological framework to show how researchers may interpret the city and its urban experience through cinema. Based on Peirce’s triadic model of semiotics and his famous Icon/index/symbol typological distinction, using urban theory, ‘urban cinesemiotics’ helps an interpreter to get close and closer to the final ‘interpretant.’ In relation to the dynamic notion of ‘object,’ this study shows how the dynamic interpretation of image-signs can move us toward a different way of thinking about the process of urban experience.
From Left to Right: A Visual Ethnographic Reading of Social Movements and the Right to the City in Thessaloniki, Greece: May 14-19, 2018.
James Baker, University Of Nebraska – Lincoln & Kelly A Clancy, Nebraska Wesleyan University
This paper interrogates Lefebvre’s right to the city through a visual ethnography of social movements in Thessaloniki, Greece in May, 2018. Based on photographs and field notes taken surrounding Thessaloniki’s central axis between Via Ignatia and Upper Aristotelous Square, we reimagine the right to the city through visual means as a knitting together of subjects, materials, and traces in a multivocal, dissonant “revelation” of rights. We consider the placemaking tactics of the Thessaloniki Pride march and its appropriation of Upper Aristotelous Square as a space for, as Lefebvre elicits, “simultaneity and encounter” through book exchanges, pop-up information kiosks, and shops proffering household wares produced by autonomous workers’ collectives around Thessaloniki. Yet this enactment occurs along a persisting continuity of displacement and marginalization, evidenced by a fracas observed within a migrant encampment across the square; we explore the right to the city here as a condition of the possible, where margins meet, situating a constellation of arguments for subjecthood and citizenship in urban space. Finally, we analyze claims of rights of return of two groups – Palestinian Greeks and Pontic Greeks – as social movements responding to political violence. In the former case, we offer a visual reading of a peaceful rally commemorating the 70th anniversary of Palestinian Nakba Day in the aftermath of the murder of unarmed protestors in the West Bank, while in the latter case, we unpack the assault on the mayor of Thessaloniki during a march honoring Pontic Greek victims of genocide during World War I.
Envisioning alternate futures: Photovoice as a mode of shadow citizenship in Vietnam and Indonesia
Noelani Eidse, McGill University
Participatory visual methods have become increasingly recognized as powerful tools for geographical thought and practice as they move beyond discursive representations of lived experiences. In contrast to conventional research approaches, visual methods aim to facilitate collaborative knowledge production, increase participants’ tools for self-representation, and balance power in researcher-respondent relationships. Reflecting on the contributions of photovoice for research with populations on the political, economic and social ‘fringe’, our paper incorporates findings from case studies in two Southeast Asia. Together, these case studies highlight the role of photovoice in providing insights into situated experiences of everyday survival; furthermore, we find that innovative participatory methods, such as photovoice, play an integral role in revealing otherwise obscured perspectives and daily politics of life on the ‘margins’ of dominant societies. Our paper engages with debates on the usefulness and limitations of photovoice. We argue that photovoice requires a substantial degree of investment—from participants and researchers—though it plays an integral role in garnering knowledge on situated experiences of ‘life on the margin’. Additionally, participatory visual methods in critical research can present significant political implications for respondents, which researchers must hedge against with rigour.
Visualizing critical geopolitics: inter-generational, place-based digital storytelling
David Marshall, Elon University & Dima Smaira, American University of Beirut
The use of creative visual methods in research with young people–such as photovoice and mental mapping–has been criticized for reproducing a parochial preoccupation with local-scale micropolitics. The converse holds true in critical geopolitics, which has shown a reluctance to engage with creative visual methodologies and often exhibits a tendency to reify the very state-centric scopic regimes that critical geopolitics intends to de-center. Indeed, until somewhat recently, there has been relatively little engagement between research in geographies of children and youth and critical geopolitics. Drawing upon community-based research with young people in Lebanon, Cyprus, and Palestine, this paper describes the use of digital storytelling as a participatory, youth-centered visual research method. We contend that this method enables an examination of how the everyday lives of young people unfold within broader geopolitical processes, while simultaneously allowing young people in “(post-)conflict societies” to challenge the dominant geopolitical narratives that so often frame their lives. Situated in the productive interplay between representation and affect, digital storytelling juxtaposes intimate voice and private snapshots with familiar sounds and archival images. As such, the medium highlights confluences and ruptures between individual stories and (geo)political narratives. Our intergenerational, place-based approach eschews the more individualistic notions typically mobilized by pedagogical applications of digital storytelling. Rather than using digital storytelling as a tool for introspective self-reflection, place-based digital storytelling encourages inter-subjective extrospection, a process of exploring how individual stories unfold within broader geopolitical narratives and intertwine with the stories of other people and places.
Seeing the River: Visualizing race, infrastructure, and ecology on the New River, Fort Lauderdale
Wanda Liebermann, Florida Atlantic University
Passing under the Broward Boulevard bridge, up the New River, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, reveals an abrupt transformation of the river’s edge: well-tended gardens, bordered by concrete seawalls and yacht berths, give way to chain link, discontinuous bulkheads, and—no boats. In this “yachting capital of the world” moveable bridges allow pleasure boats to navigate between waterfront residences and ocean. The Broward bridge prevents passage of vessels larger than a dinghy into what was known under Jim Crow as “Colored Town,” suppressing black land value and wealth. However, an oral history project, held at the African American Research Library, shows that the bridge also led to the accidental preservation of this subtropical Eden, historical heart of the black community. This paper is based on my ongoing research of the changing cultural geography of this riverine system and its effects on the material, social, and political landscape. The topic of race and uneven, complex, and even paradoxical development in this region has barely been studied, particularly through visual means. Drawing on my training as an architect, and on oral histories, local archives, GIS data, environmental reports, and formal analysis, I develop mixed-media techniques for disclosing new insights about the intersection of race, class, ecological health, and pleasure on this waterway.
Mobility and Permanence in Public Space. Narratives of University Students With Different Self-Determination of Gender and Sexual Orientation
Margarida Queiros, Universidade de Lisboa, IGOT/CEG & the Collective Aleph, Universidade de Lisboa, IGOT (Ana Rita Santos, Andrés Barreno Lalama, André Ribeiro, Emanuella Vieira, Katielle Susane Silva, Margarida Queirós)
This paper is written by the Collective Aleph. Discussing open public and semi-public spaces of recreation and leisure, is a challenge when questioning who conceived them and for whom they are designed or serves. Not all of these socially accepted spaces are inclusive, ensure security, flourish and socializing, or arrange affection and comfort. Because they are thought and designed from the reductive heteronormative and homophobic lens (Roestone Collective, 2014), their characteristics produce differentiated effects on mobility and permanence and often produce exclusionary practices. We can, like Nancy Fraser (1990), ask if these spaces will not be the ones that allow the access of some groups and prevent others which leads to the debate on human rights, citizenship and the right to the city. In line with Linda McDowell’s (2000), we explore the sexually and socially constructed spaces in the city, from the lived experiences and felt atmospheres of everyday life dynamics of mobility and permanence, of a voluntary group of university students, of different self-determination of gender and sexual orientation, in Lisbon. Qualitative methodologies were used (in-depth interviews, participant observation, storytelling, story mapping, and a form-based data collection tool). This research translates into a digital platform (web-documentary), an online narrative of audiovisual and open navigation. This web-doc combines the stories, the senses and the emotions through multimedia tools (written texts, videos, images and audios). Exploring alternative identities and valuing non-normative ways of being young female/male the narratives illustrate experiences that deconstruct and reinterpret hegemonic models of living in the city.
Picturing Progress and Decline: Photography and the Interpretation of Industrial Landscapes
James Dickinson, Rider University
In this paper I explore ways photography depicts and interprets the industrial-urban landscape in two eras of development: “whirlpool” capitalist and socialist industrialization (modernity); and a “late” capitalist stage of globalized and decentralized development (post-modernity). To begin, I review the literature on cultural construction and interpretation of landscape. I then explore how selected photographers depict the evolving industrial-urban landscape, comparing and contrasting their work with respect to:(i) subject matter depicted; (ii) techniques used to compose and organize images; and (iii) the character of the visual narrative advanced. I distinguish between modernist interpretations such as those advanced by Albert Renger-Patzsch, Soviet pioneers Aleksandr Rodchenko and Boris Ignatovich, and the precisionist, Charles Sheeler, which variously present industrial landscapes as expressions of national power, the dignity of labor, or the virtues of technological progress; and postmodern interpretations associated with the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher, Robert Smithson, Lewis Baltz and other contemporary photographers who treat now ruined and exhausted landscapes as expressions of the failure of technology, the limits of economic growth, and the destructive effects of human activity on the environment. My conclusion is that photography is a fluid and dynamic art form which consistently supplies varied and interesting commentaries on powerful economic, social and cultural forces shaping and transforming the human-made landscape.
The Impact of Epic Hollywood Film on Organizers of the Movement of Deportees and Returnees in Mexico City’s “Little L.A.”
Gregory Berger, Facultad de Artes, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos
Thousands of undocumented young adults who identify the United States as their true homeland have been deported to Mexico in recent years. The Mexico City based telemarketing industry has exploited the presence of these new arrivals, many of whom have limited Spanish language skills but are fluent in English. The neighborhood surrounding these businesses has been informally renamed “Little L.A.” and is an important urban space for the binational community. On the streets and in local restaurants within Little L.A., deportees and returnees meet, socialize, and organize to fight against discriminatory practices against them in Mexico and for the right to reunify with their families in the United States. Many organizers and active members of this emerging movement report that they feel a personal identification with Hollywood films, particularly epic Hollywood films. In some cases, members of this movement see their personal stories predating involvement with the movement reflected in the stories of epic commercial films. In other cases, epic films inspire an individual’s decision to join the movement, and in a few cases, movement organizers attribute epic Hollywood movies as an inspiration to make specific decisions or take specific actions within the movement. Therefore, it can be observed that epic Hollywood film plays an inspirational role in the development of this emerging social movement on the streets of Little L.A, and may indicate a broader role of commercial films with mythic themes in the formation of organizers of other movements.
There were two presenters who were unable to attend due to a travel difficulties, but would have been great additions to our sessions:
Imag(e)ining Place in Post-disaster Recovery: Asserting rights to place, narrative and identity
Joern Langhorst, University of Colorado Denver, College of Architecture and Planning
This paper, based on the author’s 5-year involvement in the recovery of the Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina, provides critical perspectives on alternative visual languages’ potential in conceptualizing and realizing of more complex adaptive human-environment interactions and in asserting the interests of marginalized and vulnerable communities. Traditional visualization techniques in design and planning disciplines have emphasized the (rational) manipulation of space and the inscription of order and meaning and excluded visceral, unique and experiential qualities that are a fundamental precondition for the formation of place. Such emphasis on the rational, measurable reduces place to tabula rasa, destroying its inherent memories, meanings and identities, and disempowering the people it is inhabited by. The paper presents examples of alternative techniques and media for visualization and representation in the context of the recovery of post-disaster and post-industrial landscapes and communities. These play significant roles in counter-mapping, and attempt to facilitate the inclusion of multiple interpretations and voices in the discursive processes of intentional place change. They afford previously marginalized people and communities alternative instruments to exercise their “right to narrative” (Bhabha 2003), thus asserting their identity and empowering them to play a more significant role in the spatial design and planning processes that that habitually exclude and victimize them. As such, they serve as an alternative (primarily visual) language that provides a parallel “read” on extant and hypothetical/future places – a language that is frequently incompatible with traditional graphic media employed in spatial design and planning processes by hegemonial interests.
Margins at the Center: Experiments in Immersive Instant Geotelling
Elisabetta Rosa, Université catholique de Louvain, Maurizio Memoli, Università di Cagliari & Ivan Blečić, Università di Cagliari
This paper is about four short films on the city centre of Brussels, produced during a five-day workshop we have organised in October 2018, with eight PhD students, two video-makers and three teachers (us), set to explore the heterotopias and heterocronies of a huge construction site presently transforming the main boulevard into a pedestrian area. For their production, we have devised and experimented a method and exploratory practice of “immersive instant geotelling” (IIG), inspired by approaches of body and emotional immersion and disorientation, where the “privileged observer” is not only immersed, but also involved in the socio-spatial reality, acting upon it and perturbing it, even if only by the mere act of holding a camera and pointing it at people and spaces. The four films thus chronicle our errant roaming, encounter, astonishment and contrasting affects with places and people who live there. Bodies pushed by the city, chasing gazes, and us moving along and among smells, shapes, borders, people, and practices; the rhythms and temporalities of people and practices intersecting, overlapping and opposing the tectonic materiality, rhythms and sounds of the overblown building site, aimed at making the city centre more attractive and competitive within a neoliberal logic. Yet “other” geographies arise beyond these expectations, creeping into the interstices and unfolding socio-spatial-temporal margins, and new scenes, meanings, and hypothesis. We shall argue that the method and practice of IIG is apt to offer an embodiment of narratives of actions, representations, and their relationship to space by means of social practices.
We would also like to thank our discussants Innisfree Mckinnon from the University of Wisconsin-Stout and Heather Rosenfeld from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Innisfree guided discussions for two of our sessions and Heather had the audience participate in a visual method for discussion: exquisite corpse drawings!
We are hoping to put together a special issue with the papers presented in these sessions. We are also already thinking about organizing a similar set of sessions for AAG 2020. Thanks again to all of our presenters and attendees!
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:
Identity and positionality
Expressions of (shadow) citizenship and belonging (Cresswell, 2009)
Self-representation and embodied experiences
Ethnographic case studies
2) Power and politics
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: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. 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.