An experimental presentation of fieldwork by six members of an ERC-funded project exploring a hypothesis about the relationship between photographic self-representation and different societies' understanding of what is politically possible.
The lab engages questions of materiality, visuality and the imagination. It asks, in an experimental mode, whether it is possible to be a 'citizen of photography' in advance of other forms of citizenship. Data from recent fieldwork from Nicaragua, Nigeria, Greece, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Cambodia will be explored as a series of interpretive possibilities rather than polished conclusions. The project is a social science investigation, through intensive ethnography, of a hypothesis which has been much discussed by photographic historians and political theorists as a philosophical issue. This project seeks to turn this into a set of empirically testable hypotheses by looking at how different groups of people actually use photography and what they have to say (and what they do) about politics. Visual and other data from fieldwork will focus on specific testable formulations. For instance, the general assumption concerning the relationship between "representation" through images and "representation" through politics will be tested empirically by asking whether the visualization of "individuals" and other units of identity allows people to imagine a role for different kinds of politics in their life. One testable hypothesis might be that democratic processes may be much easier to imagine if an individual has multiple representations of themselves and if those images permit what has been called "self-archiving" ie the strong consolidation of a historically rooted individual agent through the regular use of photography. These will be approached as open questions that might be clarified, or contradicted, by the evidence presented in the lab.