Lonnie Rowell, Rio Rancho, New Mexico
The beauty of photovoice[i] is that it democratizes the documenting of reality and the sharing of experiences within varying physical, cultural, and temporal contexts. Photovoice projects are organized in neighborhoods and communities to create awareness, initiate dialog about issues and concerns, and to bring real lives and local experiences into policy and practice discussions. Like most forms of participatory action research, photovoice initiatives also seek to mobilize and focus social change efforts. The Social Solidarity Project launched by ARNA’s Knowledge Democracy Initiative team is a small photovoice contribution to documenting the experiences of people during the COVID-19 pandemic.[ii]
During a time of necessary physical distancing and frightful watches for the appearance of symptoms, we wish to document the importance of social connection and solidarity as beacons of hope during the pandemic. Our hope is that the project will highlight the need for and benefits of neighborhood, community and global solidarity as well as strengthen awareness of the varied socio-political forces at work that can keep us isolated, divided, and fearful. We also hope to contribute to national and global public health considerations of the increased risks faced by populations already at-risk of marginalization in the sweeping narratives of geo-political upheavals. While celebrities, the wealthy, and the privileged in general have greater resources for staying sheltered, fed, cared for and in contact with loved ones, others, such as refugees, the homeless, migratory immigrants, and those confined to institutionalized settings associated with criminal and juvenile justice, mental health, and elder care are not so fortunate. Their voices need to be heard as well.
Given the grounding of this project in knowledge democratization we feel a responsibility to examine critically varied dimensions of social solidarity as they come into focus through submissions to the photovoice gallery we have established. How will the gallery be different than the moving montages shared on mainstream media in an effort to find something good in the thick of the depressing and mind-numbing data of daily postings for new cases and new deaths? What issues will make up the foregrounds and backgrounds of what is shared here? How will the gallery address knowledge production in relation to photovoice? Because we are a diverse group of practitioners, thinkers, theoreticians, engaged citizens and scholar-activists whose interests crisscross the intellectual grounds and practical applications of action research, epistemological diversity, participatory, feminist, and critical approaches to qualitative inquiry, professional development and learning, educational access and equity in migration contexts, peace building, restorative justice, and the use of dialogic approaches to conflict resolution, we have chosen to enter into this project by setting aside orthodoxies. We understand the risks of this stance but believe that we all can benefit from the shared learning that takes place as we collaborate on ‘keeping the gallery open,’ adding items, and co-constructing an analysis of what we see in the shared photos and descriptions.
The little gallery we have created in knowledgedemocracy.org is a space for the sharing of popular knowledge about what it means to express solidarity with others, to show up for those we care about, in the face of this global pandemic. We welcome submissions and comments from around the world.
(The above is an excerpt from an essay published by Social Publishers Foundation at: https://www.socialpublishersfoundation.org/knowledge_base/knowledge-democracy-at-work-glimpses-of-social-solidarity-in-the-pandemic/)
[i] For an excellent source on photovoice methodology and its links to social change see https://photovoice.org/. Also, https://globalhealth.duke.edu/media/blogs/voices-of-dghi/what-photovoice.
[ii] The Action Research Network of the Americas (ARNA) is a hemispheric network of action researchers, participatory action researchers and supporters of action research in varied social domains. ARNA was established in 2012 by scholar-activists and university-based educators in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. https://arnawebsite.org/