On photoPAR, with researchers who critically and reflexively engage white privilege towards anti-racist praxis


By: M. Brinton Lykes & Holly Scheib

There is great potential for personal, interpersonal, and ultimately community growth and societal change through participatory action research.  Despite this, some of the resources through which we engage with participatory and action research and activist scholarship — specifically, photovoice — have lost their emancipatory potential.  Many activities self-described as “photovoice” lack a focus on “action” and/or fail to fully engage participants as co-researchers in articulating the project’s goals or potential.  We advocate for work that focuses on investing in individuals, organizations, and communities through long-term, dedicated relationship building, critical reflection, and actions.

We stress the importance of approaching research through ongoing and iterative reflexivity in which researchers critically analyze systems of power and privilege from which we benefit, particularly those of us who are white, university-educated and in the global north. Our chapter explores various examples from prior photoPAR projects in which we have collaborated with survivors of humanitarian crises in the United States (e.g., post-Katrina New Orleans) and Latin America (e.g., Guatemala in armed conflict and post-conflict transitional justice seeking) and identifies specific recommendations for increasing the liberating potential of arts-based participatory action research.

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