‘We Are Watching You Too’: Reflections on Doing Visual Research in a Contested City’

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Abstract

This article focuses on our observations of two contentious Orange Order parades and nationalist protests that took place in an interface area in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in June 2011 and 2012. We apply a perspective of visual ethnography as place-making (Pink 2009) to our research experience in order to add to understandings of how a place of conflict is experienced, (re)produced or challenged through the use of photography and video by marchers, protesters and researchers alike. In doing so, we discuss not only the strengths of visual methods, (how they enable a greater understanding of adversarial perspectives, allow researchers to experience contestation emotionally and compel reflexivity), but also more controversial aspects of their use (the extent to which they limit what researchers notice or omit and legitimate particular versions of conflict). Last, but not least, we suggest that the ubiquitous use of ‘the digital eye’ in the contentious events we observed has a democratising influence over elements in the performance of conflict: challenging the presumed roles of performers and audiences; of researchers and researched; opening contentious events to a wider audience and facilitating the communication of competing narratives.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociological Research Online
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2013

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event
reflexivity
photography
ethnography
protest
experience
video
narrative
communication
performance

Cite this

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abstract = "This article focuses on our observations of two contentious Orange Order parades and nationalist protests that took place in an interface area in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in June 2011 and 2012. We apply a perspective of visual ethnography as place-making (Pink 2009) to our research experience in order to add to understandings of how a place of conflict is experienced, (re)produced or challenged through the use of photography and video by marchers, protesters and researchers alike. In doing so, we discuss not only the strengths of visual methods, (how they enable a greater understanding of adversarial perspectives, allow researchers to experience contestation emotionally and compel reflexivity), but also more controversial aspects of their use (the extent to which they limit what researchers notice or omit and legitimate particular versions of conflict). Last, but not least, we suggest that the ubiquitous use of ‘the digital eye’ in the contentious events we observed has a democratising influence over elements in the performance of conflict: challenging the presumed roles of performers and audiences; of researchers and researched; opening contentious events to a wider audience and facilitating the communication of competing narratives.",
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