Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lights, Camera...Action Research

It is dress rehearsal. Along with 20 Filipino domestic workers, a handful of Filipino American cast members, director, lights person, media and prop staff, I walk into the theater at Hunter College. Our light technician turns on the lights on the stage to see if they work and we take in a few seconds to look at one another to see if Diwang Pinay, the play about the transnational lives of domestic workers in NYC, is actually happening.

We all walk around the stage to inspect our new home for the weekend. Our light technician turns the lights off again. The stage and the theater is blacked out. She turns it on again. And as I look around at the cast members around me, I am tickled to laughter as all of the women and cast members are giving their best on-stage face, complete with drama, off-to-the-distance stares, pouts and magic in their eyes. We all realize we're doing the same face and burst out in laughter.

This play, a product of years of participatory research, was the action component of the project. For 2 years, the lives of Filipino women migrants working as domestic workers in New York City who are active in families in the Philippines was the topic of a participatory action research (PAR) project in New York City. Along with the Filipino migrants, 1.5 and second generation Filipino Americans who were youth, students and professionals in NYC also took part in learning how to do research, conducting kuwentohan or talk-story sessions, and then producing a play as a form of disseminating findings

The article, "Ang Ating Iisang Kuwento" Our Collective Story: Migrant Filipino Workers and Participatory Action Research, explores the dynamics in creating new methods through participatory action research. The article considers Filipino cultural values of kuwentohan and theater as epistemologically significant to Filipino women as they conduct research on the institutions and social forces that produce their transnational families.

With 5,000 Filipinos leaving the Philippines daily, a little than over half of them being women, this story of separation and migration will continue. The women who experience the pain of migration and who come together to hold one another, must be at the forefront of telling their stories. This article explores how scholars can partner migrants and community members to take on the task. Dr. Tere Castillo Burguete writes, “Migrants are commonly a vulnerable population, and women are part of that as an even more exposed group. It is necessary to hear their stories. It is important to know about the political potential of PAR. That is the challenge that the author of this article undertook, i.e., to pave a portion of the long road that still needs to be traveled."

This article is a one of a number of ways the findings of this PAR project is being disseminated. As you read through the article, view pictures and clips of the play, I want to continue thinking about these questions: How do PAR researchers use play, creativity and artistry as a research method? What role does art play in our research projects, for our research collaborators, for us as scholars? What can social science learn from performance? And vice versa?

I look forward to continuing this discussion with you. Please feel free to offer comments or questions below. 
Valerie Francisco

FREE access to this article for the next 30 days is available through this link. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Our Photovoice journey: An act of exhausting bravery

Our paper brings you more than just “lessons learned,” instead, we show you how fears are deeply embedded in the political statements that our photographs attempt to visualize.  These fears, however, are interlaced by hope, conviction, strength and the belief that our voices, as U.S. Latinas, are needed to frame those political statements.

Initially, the North Portland HEAL Photovoice project hoped to use photographs to understand the everyday lives of Latino immigrant families in North Portland, however, we ran with the project and used photographs to bring forth our voices (which are either submerged or obscured by institutional practices that claim to speak for us). In short, we wanted to make a political statement about U.S. Latinas as creators of knowledge.

Political statements, however, bring out doubts and forces mujeres have to be brave.  The work that you see in these pages, while brave, is also extremely exhausting.  We write about the need to speak up in order to enact change but also write about the fear that often mutes the voices of women of color.   We fear that our experiential knowledge as Latinas could be swept aside. During the project we also came to realize how the many forms of oppression that operate at every level of society, especially in those the institutions that we participate in, could affect how we participated in this project. Finally, we feared that there would be limits to how much change our photographs could make in our communities.

This article is not a manual. It is just one way that one can use participatory action approaches to truly and sincerely give voice to those in our communities.  Our modification of the Photovoice methodology, which we dubbed as Mujerista Photovoice, is an invitation to challenge the way we do methods so we can make more visible the remaining work that needs to be done.

We look forward to continuing this discussion with you! Please offer comments or questions!
Angie Pamela Mejia, Olivia Quiroz, Yolanda Morales, Ruth Ponce, Graciela Limon Chavez, and Elizabeth Olivera y Torre

FREE access to this article for the next 30 days is available through this link.