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Visual Methods and Practices in Research: New Work, Ideas and Approaches

21-22 April

Person taking photo, focus on image on phone, blurry people  in background. Photo by Marina Svensson
Photo by Marina Svensson

Visual research methods refer to a set of methods that use images as part of the process of generating data. These images can be existing/found photos and film, and other visual data, or those produced by the researchers themselves, or in collaboration with participants. Visual data can also be used to elicit discussion (e.g. photo-elicitation). Images and film create new knowledge and provide valuable data and insights of everyday life and work among different groups of people and communities that written texts might miss or not fully convey. The fields of sociology and anthropology have long used qualitative visual research methods and new work have also appeared within the field of Asian studies. This workshop will discuss ethical, methodological, and practical issues and choices when using visual methods and when presenting one’s research. Five keynote speakers from different disciplines will share and discuss their work using images, multimedia and film as part of their research.

The workshop is closed but invites a limited number of participants (max 10) at Lund University to present and discuss either previous and on-going work, or ideas for research projects, using visual methods. Participants who want to present should reflect on the following questions: What is the role of visual data in my research? What type of visual method have or should I use? What type of visual data are important and feasible in my research (photos, films)? How have/will I obtain the visual data and in what stage of my research?  How will I present my visual data (e.g. exhibitions, photo essay format etc)? Submit a short abstract, 300 words (or if applicable a photo essay or film), to marina [dot] svensson [at] ace [dot] lu [dot] se by 5 April. Ph.D. students who present and attend the whole workshop and write a reflection paper of 5 pages based on some of the suggested literature, can if their supervisor approves receive 3 credits.

Programme

21 April

9.30-9.45 Welcome

Seeing Ghosts: Visual Methods for Researching Death and Spirituality in Asia

How do we photograph something that isn’t there? How do we visualise something we cannot see? In this talk, I will be considering a number of theoretical and methodological frameworks I have developed in recent years when using photography to document and analyse spiritual beliefs and practices amongst Chinese Religion practitioners in Singapore. In particular, I will explore what I call points of praxis – or ‘decisive moments’ in rituals and behaviours that perform the presence (or belief of presence) of spiritual beings, and the spiritual imagination – a way of seeing amongst believers that establishes a spiritual “flowscape” involving actions, actors and artefacts. These imagined flowscapes are ways in which individuals interact meaningfully with state policy on sacredness, and are made real in transient, but photographable, ways.

 

Terence Heng is a photographer and sociologist. He is currently a senior lecturer in Sociology at the University of Liverpool, where he is also an Associate with the Centre for Architecture and the Visual Arts. His research ambulates through the intersections of cultural geography, visual sociology and photographic practice, investigating diasporic Chinese identities, sacred space-making amongst Chinese Religion practitioners and spirit mediums, and photographic methods for social research. His most recent books are Diasporas, Weddings and the Trajectories of Ethnicity, a visual ethnographic study of Chinese weddings and ethnic identity-making in Singapore and Of Gods, Gifts and Ghosts: Spiritual Places in Urban Spaces, a visual monograph of Chinese religion, state policy and the spiritual imagination in Singapore.

 

Recommended readings and work:

www.terenceheng.info

Heng, T (2021) Photographing Absence in Deathscapes. Area, doi:10.1111/area.12514

Heng, T (2020) Of Gods, Gifts and Ghosts: Spiritual Places in Urban Spaces, Routledge: London

Heng, T (2019) Creating Visual Essays: Narrative and Thematic Approaches, in Pauwels, L and Mannay, D (eds) The Sage Handbook of Visual Research Methods, London: Sage

Heng, T (2016) Visual Methods in the Field: Photography for the Social Sciences, Routledge: London

11.15-11.45 Coffee break

Seeing ‘Something Like Iran’ from Cambodia: Multimodal Interventions in the Anthropology of Inter-Asia Movements.

How do we see history? I am brought to this question by a few Chams—Muslims in vastly Buddhist Cambodia—and among them a few Saeths (Sayyids)—descendants of the Prophet and his family—as they “go Shi’a,” an expression indicating a departure from traditional Sunnism for Shi’ism, by way of Iran. Nothing feels further apart than Cambodia and Iran. And yet, through a multimodal intervention in inter-Asia studies, I suggest that, for some Cham Saeths, the two are seen in closeness and togetherness carried by an image of history. Rather than taking the Shi’a moment as a new and definite conversion and the journeys to Iran as afar relocations, this talk takes asks how fragments of images, soundscapes and words can contribute to rethink how we see history and therefore reposition multimodal anthropology as essential to inter-asia studies.

 

Emiko Stock is a photo-video ethnographer currently based at The American University in Cairo as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology. Since the early 2000’s I have been working with Cham (Cambodian Muslims) Sayyids (descendants of the Prophet) as they journey into Shi’a and into Iran. As a videographer within a team of wedding photographers and arrangers, I attempt to trace a sense for historiography that goes beyond an attachment to facts and views. My anthropological approach attempts to bring theory and practice together by way of experimentation using creative writing, still and moving images, analog and digital pictures.

 

Selected publications/work:

https://emikostock.com

https://positionspolitics.org/commute-by-emiko-stock/

13.00-14.00 Lunch

Videography as/instead of Ethnography: multimodal engagements and fieldwork in Tokyo

‘Ethnography’ as a core methodology in anthropology, sociology and geography has long been a contested term in these disciplines. With the popularisation of this method, and the advent of multimodal approaches in fieldwork, the meaning of ethnography has become even more complex. Within this talk, I reflect on my efforts to capture the affective and intertextual dimensions of fieldwork with young Chinese people in Tokyo. In particular, I examine how the use of a video camera and other digital methods transformed how I conducted fieldwork. Finding that the camera shaped both my ‘ethics of engagement’ with others, and the forms of analyses conducted in the field, I argue that greater attention to the modes of inscription (-graphy) and the frames we use to see ‘the field’ may necessitate leaving ethnography as we know it behind.

 

Jamie Coates is an anthropologist and a senior lecturer at Sheffield University. He specializes in the cultural anthropology of China and Japan, and combine visual and digital ethnography with historical and textual analysis to explore the relationship between technology, mobility and imagination in urban Northeast Asia. He is currently investigating how media and migration re-scale local imaginaries in the Sino-Japanese context.

 

Recommended readings and viewings:

Coates, J (2019), “The Cruel Optimism of Mobility: Aspiration, Belonging, and the “Good Life” among Transnational Chinese Migrants in Tokyo,” Positions: asia critique. 27 (3)

Coates, J (2020) “Contained serendipity as Fieldwork in Japan: studying Chinese people in Japan,” in Kottmann N & Reiher C (Ed.), Studying Japan Handbook of Research Designs, Fieldwork and Methods (pp. 91-95). Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlag.
Film

Coates, J (2018) ‘Tokyo Pengyou’, Journal of Anthropological Films 2 see 
http://boap.uib.no/index.php/jaf/article/view/1538/1319

15.30-16.00 Coffee break

16.00-17.30 Short presentations by participants

 

22 April

Visual research methods: exploring the world of graffiti writing

This talk considers the use of visual methods as a way of approaching otherwise difficult-to-access fields – in the case at hand the world of graffiti writing of Malmö, Sweden. Outside of certain legal contexts, graffiti writing constitutes vandalism under current Swedish law. Keeping in mind the pervasive negative attitude towards, and possible legal consequences of, graffiti writing, it is not surprising that the ability to remain unnoticed and anonymous is considered important among graffiti writers. This also means it can be difficult for outsiders – including researchers – to gain access to the world of graffiti writing. This talk will discuss how studying visual material resulting from, or in other ways related to, graffiti writing allowed me as an outsider to explore and gain an understanding of the field. It will be argued that visual methods can provide insight not just about graffiti writers’ practices, but also about for example the social standing of, and relations between, agents in the field. The talk will also explore videography as a visual method for collecting and reflecting on empirical material, and video as a medium for relating research findings.

 

Peter Bengtsen is an art historian and sociologist and currently works as Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Studies at Lund University. He has written extensively on street art and graffiti and is the author of The Street Art World (2014) and Street Art and the Environment (2018). As of 2018, he is the coordinator of the interdisciplinary research network Urban Creativity Lund. His current research project focuses on experimenting with visual methods to explore the world of graffiti writing.

Recommended readings:

Bengtsen, Peter (2019), “Exploring tags through videography,” Explorations in Space and Society, No. 54, December, 2019, https://www.academia.edu/41157031/

11.00-11.15 Coffee break

The joy of eating in front a camera, or realizing queer Foodism visual Ethnography

I moved to Berlin in 2017, ever since then I continuously have struggled with the (German) food culture in this city. In 2021, due to the pandemic, Asian food culture has been stigmatized more than ever. Closing of borders and restaurant make it difficult to approach the authentic Chinese food experience. If we are what we eat, then who are we? I started to explore this topic through my camera which made me realize almost all my films have eating scenes, and they are more than just a scene in a film. In this session I will show my short video “Lerne Deutsch in meiner Küche“, and clips from “Beer! Beer!” to analyze how identities are built through film and food culture.

 

Fan Popo is a Berlin-based filmmaker, writer, and activist from China, where his queer documentary films have made a notable impact. Since 2016, he has concentrated on writing and directing scripted, sex-positive shorts. He is the founder of the Queer University Video Training Camp and has been an organizer of the Beijing Queer Film Festival for more than a decade.

 

Selected publications/work:

https://www.popofan.net

12.45-14.00 Lunch

14.00-15.30 Short presentations by participants

15.30-16.00 Coffee break

16.00-17.00 More short presentations and/or general discussion on themes and challenges that have emerged

Visual Methods

Date: 21-22 April

Venue: The Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University

Contact for more information: marina [dot] svensson [at] ace [dot] lu [dot] se (Marina Svensson)