Framing/Reframing: Visual Sociology, Goffman & the Everyday 35th International Visual Sociology Conference 19-22 June 2017

By Lamb, Pamela | Educational Research for Social Change, September 2017 | Go to article overview

Framing/Reframing: Visual Sociology, Goffman & the Everyday 35th International Visual Sociology Conference 19-22 June 2017


Lamb, Pamela, Educational Research for Social Change


Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

The 35th conference of the International Visual Sociology Association (IVSA) on Framinq/Reframinq: Visual Sociology, Goffman & the Everyday was held at Concordia University, in Montreal, Canada in June 2017. The yearly conference attracted delegates from 31 countries (with a high representation from Africa, especially South Africa), and from a wide range of disciplines-sociology, anthropology, education, communication, fine arts, and journalism to name few. Inspired by Erving Goffman's notion of strategic interaction and the ways in which marginalised communities are taking action in everyday life, the panellists explored various visual methodologies that are framing social change.

The theme of this year's IVSA conference was devoted to the work of Erving Goffman, a Canadian-American sociologist whose prolific and impactful publications have made him one of the most cited authors in the humanities and social sciences. His notions of framing and reframinq and the everyday served as stimulus for the organising committee who wrote: "Goffman's work challenges visual sociology to find ways to dialogue with audiences across the academy and beyond to bring sociological understandings to the micro level of the everyday, but also to help connect it to broader public issues" (IVSA, n.d.).

For educational research for social change, Goffman's strategies for interaction offer compelling ways of thinking by engaging participants and audiences through the visual. Whether working towards informing policy decisions, or impacting implementation plans, or improving the everyday lives of marginalised communities, educational visual methodologists are translating their research into action through various socially engaged visual productions. Visual participatory research has been given a lot of attention within educational methodologies as a way of soliciting more equitable and representative involvement by-and more ethical engagement with-marginalised communities. Initiatives for gender equality and women's empowerment, for example, often fail due to limited awareness and understanding of girls' and women's needs. Visual productions offer a unique way of representing the unrepresentable, making meaning of difficult or traumatic situations or experiences, and this can be transformative at personal and societal levels.

The 4-day conference programme was brim full; there were five to six parallel sessions running at any given time during each day. Moreover, the enticing variety of the panel presentations made it difficult to choose which session to attend, and many session rooms were overflowing with audience members. The entire programming consisted of an opening and closing plenary, two spotlight panels, 12 sessions with 67 panels, eight workshops, 12 posters, and multiple film screenings, video installations, exhibitions, and a Muralfest walking tour in the city of Montreal.

The opening session, which was simultaneously interpreted in Canada's two official languages of English and French, began with formal greetings from the IVSA co-chair, Carolina Cambre. Then there was a welcome to Kanien'keha:ka Territory, the Indigenous land known as Montreal, in the Mohawk language by Elder Ka'nahsohon Kevin Deer. This was followed by a welcoming drum song by the Buffalo Hat Singers. IVSA president, Douglas Harper, also gave a welcome address and presented the Reiger Award for Outstanding Dissertation, and the Prosser Award for Outstanding Visual Methodology (Early Scholar). Homa Hoodfar was appointed Honorary Chair, and co-chair David Howes gave the keynote introductions. There was an installation by the Possible Movements Research Group, and the wine and cheese reception featured Montreal musicians Ida Toninato and Jennifer Thiessen, and experimental video art by Paul Neudorf. To cap off the evening, delegates were invited to gather in a less formal atmosphere at the post-reception soirée to meet and network with fellow researchers. …

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