Paper short abstract:
Comparing processes underlying participatory visual research by Kenyan pastoralists and Bissau-Guinean farmers, we discuss the power of these methods to promote a local reflection on socio-environmental changes in the context of development/conservation interventions that have silenced local knowledge
Paper long abstract:
In 2009, in the midst of the worst drought in living memory, and in 2011, during an unusually wet dry season, two groups of Kenyan Maasai pastoralists used cameras to document the effects of climate change on their lives. With photography in 2009 and with video in 2011, these young pastoralists of both genders, and from various socioeconomic backgrounds, shared among themselves and with broader audiences their knowledge of and concerns over local climatic changes. In southern Guinea-Bissau, in the context of a research project currently taking place in an ethnically diverse rice farming community, local farmers are using photography and storytelling to share and reflect on the historical and ongoing environmental changes they perceive at different spatial scales, and their linkages to political economic factors. Basing our presentation on the visual work of both groups and comparing the processes underlying their image and narrative production, we will discuss the power of participatory visual research methods to challenge enduring stereotypes of well-known, yet marginalized, populations; to give a voice to "over-researched" communities; and to promote a local reflection on environmental and social changes in the context of decades of local top-down development interventions that have silenced local knowledge. In Kenya, Maasai portraits of local coping strategies and their authors' questioning of the future of pastoralism under rapidly evolving socioeconomic and environmental conditions reveal local pastoralists to be agents of change rather than just victims thereof. Meanwhile, the Bissau-Guinean farmers and photographers/researchers are grappling with a concept new to them: participation.
Participatory visual and digital research in anthropology: engagement and innovation