Tag Archives: ethics

Empowerment through participation in representation?

Most projects that set out to facilitate community participation in the creation of representations – be it for social justice advocacy; health and wellbeing; or cultural documentation – do so with a belief that participation in the making of representations about ones own community or culture can be empowering and re-construct power dynamics and patterns of dominance. Perhaps… but that doesn’t mean that power and dominance are necessarily eliminated in the process… perhaps they are just re-configured?

Kate Hennessy, a researcher and photographer, involved in in recent years a large participatory digital ethnography project in Northeastern British Columbia  has been thinking about these issues and writes:

“A central goal for participatory research processes is realignment of power, and in visual, media, and museum anthropology, the facilitation of self-representation. However, community direction of a media or research project, while potentially breaking down relations of power between researcher/outside facilitator and the community, can create representations of culture that generate new hegemonies of representation.” Click here to read more and leave a comment below with your thoughts…

(more info on the project Kate is writing about can be found by reading her on-line paper “You Tell Them the Important Stories”: 
Participatory Digital Ethnography in Northeastern British Columbia” which the quote above is extracted from. You can see the results of the digital ethnography project here: http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/Exhibitions/Danewajich/english/index.html)

Ethics in collaborative art and collaborative ethnographic practice… beginning a conversation

In my ongoing research about practices and experiences in projects that unite collaborative art and collaborative ethnographic practices the topic of ethics has come up time and time again, mostly in discussions with project facilitators who find themselves face to face with ethical dilemmas which were unanticipated at the outset of their work. From issues to do with power and control in how projects are established and run; dynamics about money and profit from materials made; to the physical and psychological risks that can come from participating in some kinds of activities – ethics in the context of this kind of work are complex, and need to be more openly debated.

Following on from the last post about participatory photography and film projects in the Palestine region check out an article from the Jerusalem Post in 2008 written by Jim Hubbard criticising the risk to children involved in a participatory photography project to document human rights abuses in Palestine…. Part of this article is Hubbard distancing himself from a project that is using the same name as a separate project he began in the 1980’s, but he is also raising provocative issues about the potential risks that come from becoming an  author of politically volatile material in a situation characterised in part by physical violence and payback, where you can not leave, because you are a local…  Hubbard writes “The camera is sometimes a dangerous weapon not only for the subject but also for the photographer.”

What do you think?