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The Politics and Poetics of Union Transgression: The Role of Visual Methods in Analyzing Union Protest Strategy

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Abstract:

Abstract

This article reports on an unusual participant observer study of a union campaign. The researchers are an academic with an interest in union strategy and a visual artist/community arts trainer. We used a multi‐method approach, with a focus on ethnography. Visual material (including many photographs) and ephemera were collected as part of the study. The essay examines how the use of visual representations contributed both to the unfolding methodology of the study and the theoretical analysis. It enabled us to develop a complex cultural materialist framework to analyze the campaign, bringing together a variety of theoretical approaches that have not hitherto been used in the field of study of industrial relations. We began the research with a ‘simple’ desire to collect illustrative material of a colorful and interesting campaign. The research led us to conclude, however, that visual data can contribute in important ways, in the words of Stallybrass and White (1986), to a deeper understanding of “the politics and poetics of union transgression.”

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/015597703782352925

Publication date: December 1, 2003

More about this publication?
  • Social Analysis has long been at the forefront of anthropology's engagement with the humanities and other social sciences. In forming a critical, concerned, and empirical perspective, it encourages contributions that break away from the disciplinary bounds of anthropology and suggest innovative ways of challenging hegemonic paradigms through 'grounded theory', analysis based in original empirical research. The journal invites contributions directed toward a critical and theoretical understanding of cultural, political, and social processes, as well as the work of active ethnographic researchers who study the forces involved in the production of human suffering, poverty, prejudice, war, and violence.
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