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'Thinking-through-Complicity' with Te Iwi o Ngāti Hauiti: Towards a Critical Use of Participatory Video for Research

This thesis explores some of the seductions and dangers of participatory video for research (PVR) involving Indigenous Māori and Pākehā research partners. The project within which PVR was used focused on exploring relationships between place, identity and social cohesion within ‘remote’ rural communities. It involved about 15 members of the Potaka whānau of Te Iwi o Ngāti Hauiti in the central Rangitīkei district of the North Island, Aotearoa New Zealand. A small group of iwi members, myself and an audiovisual specialist and trainer negotiated the project’s focus, process and ethics during 1998. A different group of iwi members were then trained in video production and community research methods later that year and supported to produce their own productions, and carry out video research interviews with other iwi members. The entire process of negotiation, training and collaborative research was filmed for archival and research purposes with everyone’s consent, and several collaborative publications and presentations have been produced since 1999. The discursive space opened up by Ngāti Hauiti’s engagement with, and use of, video provides an opportunity to attend to the ‘cultural mediations’ that occurred throughout the research partnership and to inquire into the possible ‘empire building effects’ of visual technologies within participatory research more generally. The focus on PVR within a Māori context also prompts questions about the visual’s transformative potential within geographic research, and the implications of working through the use of a visual medium for rethinking disciplinary practices and knowledges, particularly when working cross-culturally. In the thesis, I first review the evolution and attendant challenges associated with both the use of participation and video within research contexts. I trace their similar origins in modernist attempts to ‘know’ and ‘empower’ marginalised others, and highlight the ongoing marginalisation of Indigenous perspectives within mainstream debates. I then engage with conceptualisations of complicity and develop an analytical framework that expands on current discursive and ideological discussions to also attend to its material, embodied and spatial dimensions. Using this framework and a complementary autoethnographic and ‘hyper-self-reflexive’ approach, I track aspects of my own power, complicity and desire within my research practice in the PVR project during the period 1998-2001. This approach involves the development of a particular reading position to focus on critical incidents of my research practice and a means of grappling productively with the polyvalent nature of my audiovisual and other information sources. I discuss these critical incidents within three processes associated with the research: facilitation, production and reception, attending to the complex and multifaceted interplay of audiovisual texts, their producers and their audiences throughout. Such a thesis is expedient given that powerful and often uncritical rhetoric that besets participatory research and development is fast taking hold within geography. It is also timely given the proliferation of affordable and accessible audiovisual technology and its increasing use within geography and other social sciences. As geographers respond to calls to embrace more visual, tactile and other methods, this thesis offers possibilities for the repoliticisation of participatory discourse within social geography, through a more considered engagement with participatory action research, Indigenous research practices and audiovisual media such as video. I offer cautionary insights into the ‘power-full’ effects of these ways of working.
Type of thesis
Kindon, S. L. (2012). ‘Thinking-through-Complicity’ with Te Iwi o Ngāti Hauiti: Towards a Critical Use of Participatory Video for Research (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/6286
University of Waikato
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