Writing, filming, producing knowledge?

I start this post with great news: we (and I’ll describe immediately who is we) just won the IMISCOE book competition with our proposal entitled: “Visual Methods in Migration Studies: new possibilities, theoretical implications, and ethical questions”.

As a matter of fact, two years after we started consolidating the idea, together with INTEGRIM colleagues, and two years after our first panel in the IMISCOE conference in Rotterdam, the collective effort to address questions of visual methodologies in the field of international migrations finally paid off. If all goes well, in summer 2020, we should have a 18-chapter edited volume on the topic!

I am absolutely excited about the project, involving my co-editor Karolina Nikielska-Sekula, and my brilliant colleagues, who work on a range of diverse cases. Nevertheless, this also means that this year, there is going to be a LOT of writing, editing and coordinating. I guess that we will all have to invest a tremendous amount of time. I first felt that this would disconnect me from my current research project.

But will it really?

Beyond the thrill of soon starting fieldwork, I spent a large amount of time asking myself how to share the MigRural project with colleagues, prospective PhD students, students in general, and maybe a wider audience, from policymakers to curious citizens.

I guess this hypotheses blog represents a first effort to do so. Then, come the ritual presentations in conferences. As a point of fact, when one is in a middle of a project, conferences are great opportunity to get peers’ feedbacks. And, one of the chapters I will co-write for the book actually deals with this precise topic: scientific events and the acts of sharing on-going projects, their craft and the doubts that inevitably come with them. Drafting the chapter has already brought me new insights on what and where to present, with whom and why for?

What to present? My initial (and still actual) plan is to invoke visual ethnography. Visual ethnography is part of the research methods I have foreseen for MigRural. I actually draw on a first experience in Israel, which I will describe in another chapter of the competition winning book. Writing the chapter provides me with a epistemological and methodological basis with which I will build the next film.

I think that what I want to replicate is a plot that is centred on actors, on the participants to the research. Their experiences should be the focus, rather than a reading of these experiences by external experts (I therefore plan to exclude filmed interviews with colleagues for instance). When it comes to the ethnography of “home”, and in my MigRural’s case, “home-making”, visual methods provide a great mean to capture sensory experiences, while emphasising the issues of reflexivity, ethics and collaboration.

Finally, the expected outcomes to the research include not only a film, but… a written publication. What to publish? Where? This is a very challenging question… Since the MigRural project ends in 2020, I will find myself once again applying for a job, and here, the list of publications is a critical element to this competitive process. Should I just cave? Should I work towards the publication of articles in top-ranked journals, but set rules for myself (only open access, only when it is linked to a collective publication)? Or should not I focus on my own creativity and write a book (right after this one on visual methods!), that will provide me with more freedom and the ability to include more media?

This is the process I dread most, and I feel that the book we won the competition with holds more promise that an individual monograph. However, isn’t writing – as much as editing – this precise event where we synthesise our work and look for our academic “voice”?


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