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MA Political Science - Political Theory Pathway (Research Route)

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
The Photovoice Method

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI71202
Credit rating 5
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Politics
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Since its development in the mid-1990s by Caroline Wang and her colleagues (Wang, 1999; Wang and Burris, 1994, 1997; Wang, Yi, Tao, and Carovano, 1998), the community-based participatory research method known as photovoice has been put forward as an approach that can produce knowledge for social justice. The photovoice process typically progresses through a number of stages: the first stage tends to be based on identifying a community issue. Participants are trained in the photovoice method and use of cameras. Next, the group identifies the photo assignment(s) or photo-mission,” which is followed by discussion of the photographs that are taken. The meaning of these photographs is explained, either through interviews with participants about their photographs, or by qualitatively analysing writing about the photographs that has been produced by participants. Photovoice provides the space and opportunity for people to be able to reflect on social issues in creative and transformative ways (Carlson et al., 2006; Strack et al., 2004). Unlike many social research approaches where participants are asked for an immediate response, photo-voice enables time for reflection leading to the production of different kinds of data (Guillemin and Drew, 2010).

Photovoice was designed with an ‘orientation to social change’ and to support ‘critical dialogue with policymakers or those in positions of power’ (E-J Milne and R Muir, 2019: 282) Sanon et al (2014) identify three key reasons that have been proposed for the use of photovoice: firstly, to document the strengths and challenges of a community; secondly, to empower individuals by providing a collective platform; and thirdly, to develop critical dialogues to influence policy-making. Through surfacing community perspectives, policy makers can be exposed to issues that may otherwise be hidden from view (Chilton et al, 2009).


The course unit aims to:

  1. Introduce the photovoice method
  2. Explain the methodological roots of photovoice
  3. Demonstrate how photovoice can be used in social research

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able to write about the methodological roots of photovoice, will have gained experience of using the method, and be able to develop their own photovoice projects.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Recommended reading

You will be expected to engage with the academic literature to write your assessment. There are some suggestions below, but please feel free to use other literature. Dan will be available to comment on plans for the assessment.

Further Reading

Becker H (1995) Visual sociology, documentary photography, and photojournalism: It's (almost) all a matter of context. Visual Studies, 10(1-2), 5-14.

Carlson, E., Engebretson, J., & Chamberlain, R. (2006). Photovoice as a Social Process of Critical Consciousness. Qualitative Health Research, 16(6), 836-852.

Catalani, C., & Minkler, M. (2010). Photovoice: A Review of the Literature in Health and Public Health. Health Education & Behavior, 37(3), 424-451.

Chilton, M., Rabinowich, J., Council, C., and Breaux, J. (2009). Witnesses to Hunger: Participation through Photovoice to Ensure the Right to Food. Health And Human Rights, 11(1), 73-85

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of hope: Reliving pedagogy of the oppressed. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021.

Haraway D (1988) Situated knowledges: the science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. Feminist Studies, 14(3), 575-599.

Haraway D (2007) Situated Knowledges/ The Science Question in Feminism and The Privilege of Partial Perspective 109-134 in Technoscience The Politics of Interventions - Kristin Asdal, Brita Brenna and Ingunn Moser (eds.)

Hergenrather, K. et al (2009). Photovoice as Community-Based Participatory Research: A Qualitative Review. American Journal Of Health Behavior, 33(6).

Sanon, M., Evans-Agnew, R., & Boutain, D. (2014). An exploration of social justice intent in photovoice research studies from 2008 to 2013. Nursing Inquiry, 21(3), 212-226.

The Hackney Flashers. 2015. “Welcome to the Hackney Flashers Website! a Brief History by Hackney Flashers.”

Torre ME and Fine M (2011)  A wrinkle in time: Tracing a legacy of public science through community self¿surveys and participatory action research. Journal of Social Issues, 67(1), 106-121

Wang C (1999) Photovoice: A Participatory Action Research Strategy Applied to Women's Health. Journal Of Women's Health, 8(2), 185-192.

Wang C and Burris M (1994) Empowerment through Photo Novella: Portraits of Participation. Health Education Quarterly, 21(2), 171-186.

Wang C and Burris M (1997) Photovoice: Concept, Methodology, and Use for Participatory Needs Assessment. Health Education & Behavior, 24(3), 369-387.

Weis L and Fine M (2012) Critical bifocality and circuits of privilege: Expanding critical ethnographic theory and design. Harvard Educational Review 82(2): 173–201.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 44

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Daniel Silver Unit coordinator

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