Moletsane, R., Wiebesiek, L., Treffry-Goatley, A., & Mandrona, A. (Eds.). (2021). Ethical practice in \ participatory visual research with girls: Transnational approaches (Vol. 2). Berghahn Books.
An increased awareness of marginalisation and silencing in contemporary society has led to an increased use of participatory approaches and creative methods within qualitative research. Against this backdrop, it should not come as a surprise that concerns around ethical practices within those participatory approaches and creative methods have also gained traction. However, to date there are few books that explore in detail what it means to undertake ethical participatory research.
This edited book is an excellent, welcome exception. The book offers nine chapters focusing on the relationship between participatory research and ethics in the field. Approaches presented focus on visual work, such as photovoice, film, and video, but could easily be applied to any other visual materials. The approaches could also be applied to participatory approaches of art making and creating using traditional methods like sewing, handicraft, and pottery, or more contemporary versions such as cartoons and graphic novels. Throughout the book, there is a clear emphasis on discussions of ethical practices in relation to transnational research of women and girlhood. Transnational girlhood studies are introduced as an interdisciplinary field looking to develop research approaches that will not silence or marginalize those involved in the research but put the participants center-stage by regarding them as co-researchers and co-producers of knowledge.
The chapters offer theoretical discussions as well as practical insights into difficult ethical questions and moral dilemmas around topics such as ownership, anonymity, and recognition. Although there never is a simple answer, it is evident that the contributors continue to carefully negotiate the researchers’ duty of protecting research participants, while also enabling the participants to take responsibility and gain control over what is explored and how the findings are shared. The authors sensitively, but firmly, question existing ethical approvals processes, which are often found to be inadequate in light of the complexities of the research contexts and fields of study. Navigating these realities of research in an ethical manner is no easy feat. The concluding chapter expertly draws out repeating patterns of experiences and lessons that may be learned from the contributing chapters, but also moves forward the debates around ethical practices. The authors provide a clear call for ethical review boards and approvals processes to be reconsidered, as the status quo is found wanting. The final goal is to establish an ethical review process that will allow for participatory research to become a tool of — and empowerment for — those involved.
The book’s strengths are manifold. The contributors not only offer their expertise in relation to the practicalities of ethically navigating participatory research, but they do that in research contexts where indigenous, marginalized, and rural communities are at the center of the research process. Although the book’s focus lies with girlhood studies within the scope of indigeneity, rurality, and transnationalism, there are many opportunities to learn and improve your understanding if this is not your field of study. However, the specificity of the book’s focus and title may unfairly limit the potential audience as, to be frank, outside of the reviewing it, I would probably also not have selected the book. Having said that, I am overjoyed that here is a book seeking to disrupt how ethical review committees currently view participatory research:
In sum, Ethical Practice in Participatory Visual Research with Girls: Transnational Approaches is an outstanding book with highly fascinating chapter contributions theorizing significant issues of ethical practices, covering difficult and sensitive topics, seeking to empower research participants as co-researchers, and thereby offering a how-to for conducting participatory research in an ethical manner.