Paper short abstract:
This paper analyses a visual ethnographic project carried out in collaboration with secondary school students in Transylvania/Romania. Participants explore their multiple experiences of European citizenship, the social memories, and economic aspirations associated with German-Romanian bilingualism.
Paper long abstract:
Emigration to more affluent countries is an option that many young Romanians consider, and foreign language skills are avidly sought after.
Starting from the premise that Europeanness is best defined from the periphery (E. Balibar), the paper looks at the particular predicament of the multilingual young generation in Romania, based on ethnography carried out in the most well-known "German" school of the country, located in Sibiu, Transylvania.
As these students are physically replacing their (German-speaking) peers whose families emigrated to Germany or Austria after 1989, in what ways do they accommodate their multiple ethnic reference points in everyday practice? To what extent do they embrace a certain "Germanness" or identify with the remaining Saxon (i.e. German-Romanian) community? What is the impact of memories of Transylvania's multicultural past, transmitted by educators and made visible in the architectural environment? How important are the hopes of future riches?
PhotoVoice seemed to be the most appropriate method to gain access to the intimate experience of these bilingual youth, reaching beyond the ambivalent messages to which ambitious parents, the remaining Saxon community, and German policy-makers expose them. Unlike typical PhotoVoice projects, this one does not engage a disenfranchised group but addresses people with various degrees of language proficiency. Issues that will be addressed in the paper include the methodological choice to combine a PhotoVoice project with a questionnaire submitted to a much larger group of respondents, and the negotiation of multiple research agendas of all collaborators involved (an educator, a museum professional, and the anthropologist).
Participatory visual and digital research in anthropology: engagement and innovation