Visual and Embodied Methodologies (VEM) for Imaging Intersectional Gendered Violence

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: International Development


This project will consolidate and embed visual and embodied methodologies (VEM) as an established and widely recognised research practice in the social sciences. Building on a successful track record of innovative research working with and through VEM since 2020 to explore issues of exclusion and social justice, this project will apply VEM to address an urgent and ongoing research need around intersectional gendered violence. The additional value of the project will be to identify and support best research practice by examining and providing guidance on data collection, collaboration, ethics and impact and engagement to inform knowledge production and policy.

VEM encompasses a range of methods including, but not limited to, body-mapping, photovoice, photo elicitation, visual auto-ethnography, film-making and creative arts-based methods such as playback and verbatim theatre, contact improvisation, poetry, song, writing and drawing. The current project builds on Imaging Social Justice, developed by the Visual and Embodied Methodologies (VEM) Network at King's College London with the Arts Cabinet (2020-2021). This project encompassed a range of different modalities to make tangible human experiences of everyday violence and struggle for justice through showcasing five initiatives in which social scientists worked with artists to explore complex research questions around societies' tendency to marginalise certain population groups. These projects explored the dynamics of such active marginalisation and in doing so, gave voice to those whose lived realities are shaped by the structures of exclusion and routine violence in Rwanda, Palestine, Ecuador, Peru, and London. The creative engagements included participatory photography/ photovoice, documentary photography, song, bodymapping, and participatory mapping. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was conducted completely online.

Drawing on these experiences of the VEM Network at King's since March 2020, the current project will pioneer a specific VEM approach to researching intersectional gendered violence with a wide range of participants, including students and young people, activists, early career researchers, and policymakers. In addition to consolidating the methodological innovations developed through this initiative in an online and editorial format developed with the Arts Cabinet, the proposed project will delineate the core dimensions of VEM as a systematic collection of arts-based approaches to exploring key social science research challenges, in this case, with respect to gendered violence.

The project will generate four researcher-artist creative collaborations, one for each work package (1. Imaging Harassment: Mapping and Understanding Intersectional Gendered Violence; 2. Imaging Resistance: Collaborative Activism; 3. Imaging Pain: Ethical Practice and Vulnerability; and 4. VEM for Impact). These will be showcased online through an online exhibition of Editorials with the Arts Cabinet and an online and in-person exhibition to be held at The Exchange space at King's together with a VEM/Arts Cabinet book (to reflect further on the Editorials (and to include 7 commissioned creative writing texts). It will also develop a 'Shapers' residency with the Science Gallery London (working with young people from London around preventing intersectional gendered violence) and a Policy Lab. The project will create a VEM methodological toolkit to outline guiding principles on how to use these methods, the ethical dimensions of them, and lessons learnt, as well as a VEM for impact and policy toolkit using VEM for policy change and enhancing impact in relation to engaging wider audiences in prevention work, and knowledge generation regarding support systems and legislation. Finally, it will include a series of more 'traditional' social science outputs through academic outputs (four journal articles and co-authored handbook).


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