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The methodological complications and opportunities of video documenting activism in India

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Hilary Powell.

Underlying social movement organising around industrialisation and development issues in India are concerns about land, social inequity, and environmental justice. Across India communities, social movements and others are mobilising against what some describe as pressures associated with market liberalisation. Research attempted to document activism related to concerns about the proliferation of industrial enclaves in India. As a part of mixed ethnographic methodology, a digital video-camera (provided by the Smuts Fund) was used to document resistance by two social movements. Video recordings were used document how the ‘everyday processes’- the language, symbols, networks and culture of activism – are defined, created, and maintained (Laureau 1989 in Lichterman 2002: 137). Through video documentation, the researcher was able to visually capture meetings, protests, personal narratives, and informal gatherings.

This presentation will explore the benefits and challenges associated with video documenting activism in a charged political environment. A brief video clip will illustrate how the video documentation recorded activism. The following methodological questions will be raised: how does the introduction of an expensive piece of technology (video-camera) change the experience of a researcher?; what are the methodological ramifications of sharing/ not sharing visual resources?; how does research positionality change as a result of video documentation?; how are activists and movements represented via this visual medium?; and is it is it a fair representation of activism? In reflecting on these methodological issues the group can reflect on the complications and opportunities associated with video documentation of activism.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Seminars series.

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