MoVE method:visual:explore: reflections on participatory arts-based research with migrants in South Africa

MoVE method:visual:exploreJo Vearey and Elsa Oliveira

This presentation will use the MoVE method:visual:explore project of the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) at Wits University to reflect on the development of arts-based visual and narrative methodologies to research the lived experiences of migrants in southern Africa.  Our approach aims to integrate social action with research, and involves collaboration with migrant participants, existing social movements, qualified facilitators and trainers, and research students engaged in participatory research methods. This work includes the study and use of visual methods - including photography, narrative writing, participatory theatre,  body mapping - and other arts-based approaches in the process of producing, analysing, and disseminating research data. These approaches to research facilitate story-telling and self-study, incorporating various auto ethnographic approaches. Central areas of investigation relate to issues of social justice in relation to migration, with a specific focus on sexuality, gender, health, and policy.African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand   

Our projects have involved the co-production of knowledge through the development of partnerships with migrant groups.  A central focus is the involvement of under-represented migrant groups that face multiple vulnerabilities to collectively develop methods that ensure that their voices are heard and seen.   To date, projects have been conducted with migrant men, women and transgender persons engaged in the sex industry, informal settlement residents, inner-city migrants and hostel residents.  These projects have culminated in a range of research and advocacy outputs, including community-based exhibitions, public exhibitions, engagement with officials and outreach into multi-media forums.  More recently, in 2015, a newsletter project produced by sex workers for sex workers has begun with four issues published to date.

We will share and discuss our own discomforts around the idea(l)s of participatory research and reflect on methodological and ethical successes and challenges as they relate to research, social justice and advocacy movements in South(ern) Africa.