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The Uses and Limits of Photovoice in Research on Life After Immigration Detention and Deportation

Methods of Criminology and Criminal Justice Research

ISBN: 978-1-78769-866-6, eISBN: 978-1-78769-865-9

Publication date: 26 August 2019


Purpose – This chapter critically reflects on the author’s failed attempt to incorporate visual methods in follow-up research on immigration detention and deportation in Britain. In particular, it considers the uses and limits of participant-generated visuals, and the specific method of photovoice, which were originally conceived as a means to explore themes of home, identity, and belonging in and through practices of detention and release or expulsion.

Methodology/approach – This chapter discusses the visual method of photovoice to consider the uses and limits of participant-generated visuals.

Findings – Drawing on the notion of research “failure,” this chapter highlights the challenges and limitations of photovoice in follow-up research with individuals who were detained and/or deported, pointing to various methodological, logistical, ethical, and political issues pertaining to the method itself and the use of the visual in criminological research.

Originality/value – Criminologists are increasingly considering the visual and the power of photographic images within criminological research, both as objects of study and through the use of visual methodologies. This shift toward the examination, as well as integration, of images raises a number of important methodological, ethical, and political questions worthy of consideration, including instances where visual methods like photovoice are unsuccessful in a research project.




I would like to thank the women and men who participated in the study and the IRC managers and Home Office for allowing research access. This study was generously supported by the European Research Council under Mary Bosworth’s Starting Grant (2012–2017) [no. 313362]. I am grateful to members of Birkbeck’s Criminology Research Group, and Tanya Serisier and Rachael Dobson in particular, for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this chapter. Many thanks to editors Mathieu Deflem and Derek Silva for inviting this contribution.


Turnbull, S. (2019), "The Uses and Limits of Photovoice in Research on Life After Immigration Detention and Deportation", Deflem, M. and Silva, D.M.D. (Ed.) Methods of Criminology and Criminal Justice Research (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Vol. 24), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 151-164.



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