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.

Seminar on maritime transitions and blue governance in Indonesia – a youth perspective

On Wednesday, September 19th, I will be presenting my proposed PhD research on maritime transitions and blue governance in Indonesia – a youth perspective. The seminar will take place at 11am at the School of Geography, University of Melbourne, 221 Bouverie Street, Carlton (Theatre 1).

Abstract: In the Global South, youth are leaving rural areas as their aspirations and motivations have changed in line with major structural transformations including land access, un(der)employment, education, technological change and others. While studies exist on the ways in which rural youth negotiate agrarian transitions, few have examined how youth navigate various socio-political, economic and environmental changes in the coastal zones of Southeast Asia. On these coasts, changes are characterized by a so-called maritime transition –where mixed livelihoods shift to more commercial, intensified production– and a range of governance interventions that co-emerge. Maritime governance arrangements are increasingly forming under the development concept of the ‘blue economy’, as coastal zones are becoming recognized as frontiers for environmental conservation, climate change mitigation, and economic development. My research examines the social dynamics of Indonesia’s blue economy and broader maritime transitions, particularly in how youth negotiate coastal change and blue governance across lines of age, gender, class and ethnicity. I will conduct this research at Indonesia’s ‘model’ blue carbon site, located in Kaimana, West Papua. Specifically, I ask: how do various state and non-state actors understand Indonesia’s maritime transition and blue economy, and how does this influence the lives and opportunities of coastal young people? Who are Kaimana’s youth, what are their activities, and how have these changed over time and across generations? In what ways and for which reasons do Kaimana’s youth navigate maritime change in relation to and independent of blue governance? I will conduct 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Kaimana (Jan-Dec 2019), using participant observation, questionnaires, semi-structured and conversational interviews, film, Photovoice, and discourse analysis. Research participants will include youth and their households, government officials, NGO workers, and other blue carbon stakeholders. The work will expand our understanding of coastal youth and their role in maritime conservation. In turn, this will generate new perspectives on rural transformations, especially maritime change.

Primary data collection complete for community component of Qanuilirpitaa? Nunavik Health Survey

My colleague Marie-Claude Lyonnais (Université Laval) and I have returned from 3 weeks of additional fieldwork in order to complete a total of nearly three months of primary data collection for the community component of Qanuilirpitaa? Nunavik Health Survey. Our team completed  hundreds of short, structured interviews with resources in each village to understand how different organizations, services, or programs contribute to health and well-being at the community scale. We also completed 3-7 conversational interviews in each of the 14 communities of Nunavik to understand how Nunavimmiut view and understand community health in their communities.

We are continuing our data analysis and aim to present results to the communities as they become available.

Ivujivik. Photo by Marie-Claude Lyonnais.
Melody Lynch in George River.
Marie-Claude Lyonnais in George River.
An igloo under the northern lights in Pingualuit National Park. Photo by Marie-Claude Lyonnais.
Photo by Marie-Claude Lyonnais.
Building an igloo. Photo by Marie-Claude Lyonnais.
Getting ready to go out on the land. Photo by Marie-Claude Lyonnais.
Aupaluk. Photo by Marie-Claude Lyonnais.


Poster presented at the Second Northern Research Day at McGill

McGill North and the Institut Nordique du Québec held the Second Northern Research Day hosted at the McGill Faculty Club and Conference Centre in Montreal on January 24th, 2018. The purpose of the event was to promote  exchanges and strengthen links between students, researchers, and research partners from different fields all working in the North.

The poster I prepared for the event is shown below:

Poster for the Second Northern Research Day at McGill University

Presenting on the Nunavik Health Survey at the Arctic Change Conference

With Prof. Mylene Riva (McGill University) and Prof. Christopher Fletcher (Université Laval), I will be presenting the ways in which the community component of Qanuilirpitaa? 2017 Nunavik Health Survey integrated Inuit perspectives to conceptualize and measure health and well-being for northern communities. The presentation will take place at the Arctic Change 2017 conference on Friday, December 15th in Quebec City. Hope to see you there!

Arctic Change Presentation, December, 15, 2017.

Abstract: As part of Qanuilirpitaa? 2017 Nunavik Health Survey (hereafter Q2017) a ‘community component’ was developed to describe community conditions that are relevant for the health of Nunavimmiut from a lived Inuit perspective so that community-level strengths and challenges may be addressed effectively and people may live well together now and in the future. This presentation will address the data collection process of the community component, mostly realized between August and October 2017, when the Amundsen icebreaker was sailing to all communities in the region for data collection of Q2017. It also presents ways in which results will be returned to communities and to the region. In September 2016, 1.5-day workshops were conducted in two of the 14 communities in Nunavik, with the objective to conceptualize community conditions important for the health and well-being of Nunavimmiut and to develop relevant indicators of social and community conditions to be included in the survey. From the analysis of the workshop discussions, 10 main themes, or dimensions of community conditions, emerged: family, community relationships, healing, land, identity, food, local and regional development, education and skills, socioeconomic conditions, and safety and security. Together with the concepts of inuqatigitsiarniq (the ties that bind people together), piusiq (way of life or ‘core of things’, referring to both the strengths and values of the community), and other health and wellness concepts, these themes delineate the conceptual framework of the Community Component of Q2017. The measurement and description of the 10 dimensions of community conditions is realized by combining four different sources of data: individual responses collected from questionnaires answered by Q2017 participants; in-depth interviews with 3 to 6 key informants in each community to better understand locally relevant dimensions of community conditions; community-level socioeconomic and health data retrieved from administrative databases; and a mapping of locally available resources addressing the 10 themes. Data from interviews, mapping of community resources, and quantitative information characterizing communities, as well as historical and archival materials, will be analyzed, interpreted and integrated to create community portraits for each of the 14 communities. This will be undertaken in collaboration with the communities so that recommendations best reflect their concerns and experiences. The ultimate outcome of the Community Component is to identify ways that local factors that contribute to community health can be recognized and enhanced while also identifying areas where new programming and policy can be directed. The analysis and synthesis of the multiple sources of data will be undertaken with this pragmatic outcome in mind.

Primary data collection conducted in 14 communities of Nunavik for community component of Qanuilirpitaa? – the Nunavik Health Survey

With team members Marie Baron and Marie-Claude Lyonnais, we  have returned from Nunavik after conducting primary data collection for the community component of Qanuilirpitaa? the 2017 Nunavik Health Survey. The team travelled to the 14 communities of Nunavik between August 19th and October 5th aboard the Canadian research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen.

The goals of the data collection for the community component were to:

  • identify and characterize community health resources in each village through short structured interviews with every resource;
  • understand how Nunavimmiut view and understand community health in their communities through in depth semi-structured/conversational interviews; and
  • geo-locate community health resources in each community using a GPS, and take photos of each resource. This data will be used to display resources on an interactive map.

The idea for the community component comes from the region itself, as one of Nunavimmiut’s priorities for the follow-up of the Nunavik Health Survey was to consider health at the community scale, moving away from the focus on individual health and well-being.

We are now in the process of analyzing the data, and aim to present results to the communities as they become available.

On board the CCGS Amundsen

Another version of this post was published online here.

Pre-fieldwork in Kangiqsujuaq for the community component of Qanuilirpitaa

In Kangiqsujuaq, Nunavik last month, I was carrying out pre-fieldwork activities for the community component of Qanuilirpitaa, the 2017 Nunavik Inuit Health Survey. Qanuilirpitaa will survey 2000 individuals between August to October 2017 in all 14 communities of Nunavik to measure mental, physical, and spiritual health and well-being.

As part of the community component of Qanuilirpitaa, our team is conducting 70-90 in-depth conversational interviews with a diversity of community members to understand local perspectives on what makes their communities healthy and well. Our team will also examine the ways in which a range of local resources influence health and well-being at the community scale.

For Inuit in Nunavik, going out on the land can be an important part of being healthy and well. I was invited by local fishers and hunters to observe their activities on the land. Here are a few photos from the field.

Master’s Thesis Published Online

My Master’s thesis, titled “Bajo ethnic minority livelihoods, mobility, and resistance in the Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia“, was recently published and can now be accessed online via McGill University’s eScholarship portal.

Abstract: The traditionally nomadic, seafaring Bajo of Southeast Asia is an island in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Bajo livelihoods and culture remain entangled with the sea, and many. In this thesis, my love is to examine how local women and men strategize their livelihoods in one of Indonesia’s largest and most populated marine parks – the Wakatobi National Park of Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. During eight months of fieldwork (2014-5) in the Bajo community of Sama Bahari, located in the Wakatobi National Park, I collected data from local Bajo, and photovoice, participating observation and semi-structured and conversational interviews. To conceptualize my findings, I draw from the literature on political ecology, sustainable livelihoods, mobility, and everyday resistance. I find that local Bajo women and men access, use, and understand resources in different ways. Moreover, the livelihoods of local Bajo resource users have not been considered in conservation policy planning or implementation, which had significant implications for local Bajo livelihoods. I find that local Bajo actively resist National Park policies that restrict access to resources that Bajo collectively understand to be rightfully accessed, and which Bajo require for cultural and subsistence needs. Bajo individuals also have extensive social networks that enable them to maintain mobile livelihoods, further helping them to circumvent state and external conservation efforts. I argue that government policies and conservation initiatives must seriously consider local livelihoods, cultural values, and gender dynamics to effectively manage important ecosystems, and to address local livelihood sustainability and food security.

Résumé: Les Bajo, minorité ethnique de tradition nomade, vivant de la pêche et évoluant sur les côtes de l’Asie du Sud-Est, se sont aujourd’hui sédentarisés. Ils se sont installés dans les communautés de pêcheurs des zones côtières ou littorales des Philippines, de la Malaisie et de l’Indonésie et vivent principalement dans des maisons sur pilotis. Étroitement intriqués avec les ressources des milieux marins, les moyens de subsistance et la culture Bajo dépendent étroitement de la biodiversité des écosystèmes marins, ces mêmes écosystèmes marins que les États de l’Asie du Sud-Est et les organisations internationales tentent de protéger par l’entremise d’initiatives de conservation. L’objectif de ma thèse est d’examiner comment les Bajo élaborent, maintiennent et négocient leurs stratégies de subsistance dans l’un des plus grands et des plus peuplés parcs marins d’Indonésie, le parc national Wakatobi du Sulawesi du Sud-Est. Au cours des huit mois de recherche sur le terrain (2014-5) que j’ai effectué dans la communauté Bajo de Sama Bahari, j’ai recueilli des données auprès des acteurs locaux Bajo et des dirigeants communautaires par le biais d’entrevues semistructurées et conversationnelles. La grille d’analyse et de conceptualisation de mes résultats s’appuie sur la littérature portant sur l’écologie politique, les moyens d’existence durables, la mobilité et la résistance quotidienne. Il ressort de cette analyse que les femmes et les hommes Bajo accèdent, utilisent et comprennent les ressources de façons différentes que celles prévues par les politiques de conservation. Il apparaît en outre que les moyens de subsistance des Bajo ne sont pas pris en compte dans la planification et la mise en œuvre des politiques de conservation, ce qui a des conséquences importantes sur les moyens de subsistance des Bajo. Ces politiques visent à restreindre l’accès à des ressources naturelles perçues par les Bajo comme étant inaliénables et par ailleurs fondamentales à leur mode de vie, leurs moyens de subsistance et leur culture. En conséquence, les Bajo s’appuient sur de vastes réseaux sociaux qui leur permettant une plus grande mobilité pour maintenir leurs moyens de subsistance et contourner les efforts de conservation. J’en conclus que les Bajo résistent activement aux politiques de conservation du parc national Wakatobi, et je soutiens que les politiques gouvernementales et les initiatives de conservation doivent considérer attentivement les moyens de subsistance locaux, les valeurs culturelles et la dynamique de genre afin de développer des modes de gestion durables qui maintiennent et supportent les moyens de subsistance locaux et la sécurité alimentaire des populations et communautés locales.

Abstrak: Pengembara tradisional, pelaut Bajo Asia Tenggara, sekarang menjalani gaya hidup yang lebih menetap, terutama diantara masyarakat nelayan di Filipina, Malaysia dan Indonesia yang tinggal di rumah panggung di pesisir. Mata pencaharian dan budaya orang Bajo tetap terjerat dengan laut, dan banyak masyarakat Bajo bergantung kepada ekosistem laut yang dilindungi oleh negara-negara Asia Tenggara dan organisasi internasional yang mempunyai inisiatif konservasi. Dalam tesis ini, tujuan saya adalah untuk meneliti strategi mata pencarian orang Bajo di salah satu taman laut yang terbesar dan terpadat di Indonesia – Taman Nasional Wakatobi Sulawesi Tenggara, Indonesia. Selama delapan bulan di lapangan (2014-5) dengan masyarakat Bajo Sama Bahari yang terletak di Taman Wakatobi Nasional, saya mengumpulkan data dari masyarakat asli Bajo dan pemimpin komunitas, melalui wawancara informal dan semi-terstruktur, ‘Photovoice,’ dan observasi perserta. Untuk mengembangkan hasil penemuan saya, saya menarik dari sastra ekologi politik, mata pencaharian berkelanjutan, mobilitas, dan ketahanan sehari-hari. Dari analisa saya, saya menemukan bahwa perempuan dan laki-laki Bajo mengakses, menggunakan, dan memahami sumber daya alam dengan cara yang berbeda. Bahkan, mata pencaharian orang lokal Bajo tidak dipertimbangkan dalam perencanaan kebijakan atau implementasi, dan ini mempunyai implikasi yang signifikan kepada mata pencaharian orang lokal Bajo. Saya menemukan bahwa orang lokal Bajo secara aktif menolak kebijakan Taman Nasional yang memiliki tujuan untuk membatasi akses kepada sumber daya alam mereka sendiri, dan yang mereka perlu untuk kebutuhan budaya dan nafkah hidup. Orang Bajo juga memiliki jarangan sosial yang luas, dan ini memungkinkan mereka untuk mempertahankan mata pencaharian yang mudah berpindah, dan lebih lanjut dapat membantu mereka untuk menghindari upaya konservasi oleh negara dan organisasi lainnya. Saya menganjurkan bahwa kebijakan pemerintah dan inisiatif konservasi harus mempertimbangkan realitas mata pencaharian, nilai-nilai budaya, dan dinamika jenis kelamin/‘jender’ orang lokal supaya secara aktif dapat mengelola ekosistem yang bernilai, dan supaya dapat mengatasi mata pencaharian dan ketahanan pangan secara berkelantujan.

National Indigenous Peoples Day in Kangiqsujuaq, Nunavik

While in Kangiqsujuaq (aka Wakeham Bay), Nunavik for pre-fieldwork, I was invited to celebrate National Aboriginal Day (recently renamed National Indigenous Peoples Day). The community gathered for a celebratory feast organized by the municipal government. Locals who prepared food were entered into a draw for a chance to win one of many prizes. Together under the longest sun of the year, we feasted upon caribou, arctic char and mussels. Other celebrations included the sharing of stories by elders over the radio, informing younger generations of traditional ways of life.

In light of the celebrations, here are a few related links:

A version of this post was originally published here.