Decolonizing Images? A methodological approach for researching visual colonial archives
(Universitat de Barcelona)
Paper short abstract:
Can we attempt to decolonize images through participatory visual and digital methods in Anthropology? A methodological journey among photo elicitation, PhotoVoice, and participatory digital archives to approach the Spanish colonial photographs of Hermic Films in Equatorial Guinea (1944-46).
Paper long abstract:
According to Stoler (2002), even within anthropological research, the 'archival labour tends to remain more an extractive enterprise than an ethnographic one'. How can we study visual colonial archives ethnographically? This paper discusses some methodological issues I faced and strategies I developed while researching the photographic collection of the film production company Hermic Films in Equatorial Guinea during the Spanish colonial rule in the 40's. Since the beginning of the research and especially through photo elicitation (Harper D., 2002), both in Spain and Equatorial Guinea, I found it very helpful to discuss and connect the experience of the past and the present with research participants for a shared understanding of the colonial visual archive. Moreover, collaboration meant important methodological and epistemological changes. From then on, the need to develop a more structured participatory approach in studying the archive led into a PhotoVoice (Wang, Burris and Ping, 1996; Harper K., 2013) project developed in EG in 2013. This paper focuses on this part of the fieldwork experience, which meant a new shift in the research, restructuring categories and opening new paths of understanding for and through images. However, if participatory visual and digital methods can be very helpful in dealing with the study of power and representation, with examples from my research I also suggest that crucial attention must be paid to ethical problems which may arise in the process.
Participatory visual and digital research in anthropology: engagement and innovation