Photovoice as Liberatory Enactment: The Case of Youth as Epistemic Agents

Part of the Peace Psychology Book Series book series (PPBS)


Photovoice methodology has in recent years become an increasingly popular form of liberatory engagement within community-based participatory research (CBPR), especially in applications involving young people. In this chapter, we illustrate the liberatory potential of Photovoice as a praxis of epistemic correction and agency within contexts of dominant knowledge claims. By centralising marginalised voices, Photovoice is able to position young people as legitimate producers of knowledge. Drawing on a youth-centric Multi-country Photovoice Project, we use an instance of epistemic disruption, represented by the insertion of youth voices in a hegemonic knowledge-making space, to critically and reflexively analyse the liberatory performances and limits of Photovoice methodology. We suggest that despite its liberatory potential, Photovoice is subject to the marginalising institutional ideologies and arrangements inherent to the research enterprise, diminishing its social justice potential. In turn, we argue that if dominant adult-centric knowledges remain ascendant, research spaces that are constructed to enact and sustain the liberatory principles of community-engaged research may work to further silence subaltern voices.


Photovoice Liberatory engagement Youth Epistemic correction Epistemic agency Reflexivity 


  1. Boog, B. W. M. (2003). The emancipatory character of action research, its history and present state of the art. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 13, 426–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Burman, E. (2008). Deconstructing developmental psychology. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Carlson, E. D., Engebretson, J., & Chamberlain, R. M. (2006). Photovoice as a social process of critical consciousness. Qualitative Health Research, 16, 836–852.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Catalani, C., & Minkler, M. (2010). Photovoice: A review of the literature in health and public health. Health Education & Behavior, 37, 424–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. England, K. V. (1994). Getting personal: Reflexivity, positionality, and feminist research. The Professional Geographer, 46, 80–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Foster, D. (2004). Liberation psychology. In D. Hook (Ed.), Critical psychology (pp. 559–602). Lansdowne: UCT Press.Google Scholar
  7. Foster-Fishman, P., Nowell, B., Deacon, Z., Nievar, M. A., & McCann, P. (2005). Using methods that matter: The impact of reflection, dialogue, and voice. American Journal of Community Psychology, 36, 275–291.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Herder and Herder.Google Scholar
  9. Hergenrather, K. C., Rhodes, S. D., Cowan, C. A., Bardhoshi, G., & Pula, S. (2009). Photovoice in community-based participatory research: A qualitative review. American Journal of Health Behavior, 33, 686–698.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Law, S. F. (2016). Unknowing researcher’s vulnerability: Re-searching inequality on an uneven playing field. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 4, 521–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lykes, B., & Scheib, H. (2015). The artistry of emancipatory practice: Photovoice, creative techniques, and feminist anti-racist participatory action research. In H. Bradbury (Ed.), The sage handbook of action research (pp. 130–141). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  12. Makhanya, M. (2014). Address at opening of youth conference. University of South Africa Research and Innovation Week. Pretoria: South Africa.Google Scholar
  13. Minkler, M., & Wallerstein, N. (2009). Community-based participatory research for health: From process to outcomes. Health Promotion Practice, 10(3), 317–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Mitchell, C. (2015). Introduction. In K. G. Gådin & C. Mitchell (Eds.), Being young in a neoliberal time: Transnational perspectives on challenges and possibilities for resistance and social change (pp. 11–21). Sundsvall: Mid Sweden University.Google Scholar
  15. O’Sullivan, M., & MacPhail, A. (Eds.). (2010). Young people's voices in physical education and youth sport. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Odora-Hoppers, C. A. (Ed.). (2002). Indigenous knowledge and the integration of knowledge systems: Towards a philosophy of articulation. Claremont: New Africa Books.Google Scholar
  17. Pillow, W. (2003). Confession, catharsis, or cure? Rethinking the uses of reflexivity as methodological power in qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 16, 175–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Sanon, M., Evans-Agnew, R. A., & Boutain, D. M. (2014). An exploration of social justice intent in photovoice research studies from 2008 to 2013. Nursing Inquiry, 21, 212–226.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Shore, C. (2010). Beyond the multiversity: Neoliberalism and the rise of the schizophrenic university. Social Anthropology, 18, 15–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Strack, R. W., Lovelace, K. A., Jordan, T. D., & Holmes, A. P. (2010). Framing Photovoice using a social-ecological logic model as a guide. Health Promotion Practice, 11, 629–636.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Strack, R. W., Magill, C., & McDonagh, K. (2004). Engaging youth through Photovoice. Health Promotion Practice, 5, 49–58.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Suffla, S., Kaminer, D., & Bawa, U. (2012). Photovoice as community engaged research: The interplay between knowledge creation and agency in a south African study on safety promotion. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 22, 517–528.Google Scholar
  23. Suffla, S., Bawa, U., & Seedat, M. (Eds.). (2014). My voice in pictures: African children’s vision of safety. Johannesburg, South Africa: Institute for Social & Health Sciences, University of South Africa.Google Scholar
  24. Teo, T. (2010). What is epistemological violence in the empirical social sciences? Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4, 295–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wang, C. C. (2006). Youth participation in Photovoice as a strategy for community change. Journal of Community Practice, 14, 147–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wang, C. C., & Burris, M. A. (1997). Photovoice: Concept, methodology, and use for participatory needs assessment. Health Education & Behavior, 24, 369–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Wang, C. C., Morrel-Samuels, S., Hutchison, P. M., Bell, L., & Pestronk, R. M. (2004). Flint Photovoice: Community building among youths, adults, and policymakers. American Journal of Public Health, 94(6), 911–913.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  28. Zuch, M., Mathews, C., De Koker, P., Mtshizana, Y., & Mason-Jones, A. J. (2013). Evaluation of a Photovoice pilot project for school safety in South Africa. Children, Youth and Environments, 23, 180–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social and Health SciencesUniversity of South AfricaJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.South African Medical Research Council-University of South Africa ViolenceInjury and Peace Research UnitCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of the Western CapeCape TownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations