Away from home: a photographic research project exploring the dualities of freedom and dislocation, identity and assimilation, loneliness and belonging in relation to home through the transnational lives of families from Burma

Law, T 2018, Away from home: a photographic research project exploring the dualities of freedom and dislocation, identity and assimilation, loneliness and belonging in relation to home through the transnational lives of families from Burma, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Media and Communication, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Away from home: a photographic research project exploring the dualities of freedom and dislocation, identity and assimilation, loneliness and belonging in relation to home through the transnational lives of families from Burma
Author(s) Law, T
Year 2018
Abstract Away From Home is a series of photographic essays that seek to explore and invoke the experiences of presence and absence, permanence and impermanence, belonging and displacement, in relation to home, through the everyday lives of families from Burma. Drawing on the ‘ordinariness’ of interactions across familial divisions, this project combines portraits, images of everyday environments and a layering of projected imagery from the Thai-Burma border onto landscapes of resettled families, to form a narrative that comment on feelings of statelessness within the transnational mobility of the people involved. The project consists of two major components: a photobook and accompanying thesis, in relation to other practical projects undertaken as part of this research (such as photographic exhibitions and collaborative platforms) form a narrative that develop new understandings of the multidimensional complexities of being a refugee, both at home and away, and to advance traditions of documentary photographic practice in which an engagement in migration is central.

The socioeconomic effects of Burmese migrations on both their homeland and various host countries have been critically addressed in scholarly literature. Moving beyond the well-documented Burmese refugees in Thailand, other studies have examined particular cases of Burmese enclaves throughout Asia: in Japan (Banki 2006a), India (Datta 2003), and Bangladesh (Ullah 2011; Egreteau 2012). However, the significance of diasporic transnational networks must be further elucidated, not only in terms of the political and peacemaking contexts that exist within medical, social and political science research (Bird 2013; Egreteau 2012), but also through other approaches such as creative practice and visual ethnography to deepen investigations into the multifaceted sense of home in transnational communities.

I will draw on cited text based and visual studies (McConnell 2012; Goldberg 2009; Searles 2010; Panchoaga 2011-2014; Pin 2012; Kurtis 2008; Clang 2013) to develop those models in a synthesis that sits in contrast to more traditional methods of academic scholarship. This research project argues that photography can offer new ways to investigate lived experience and can provide nuanced understandings into the unspoken relationships between researcher and participant, refugees and their environments. The complex familial issues and dynamics that arise out of the current diaspora of refugees from Burma has been revealed through a visual-ethnographic research project that utilises a photo-documentary approach like those of photographers Alison Wright (2012) and David Hogsholt (2012) that examine the circumstances of diaspora from Burma, living through transitional sites of relocation, such as refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. The use of documentary photography has been central to translate unspoken inferences to the audience, as a tool for research, not merely a technique to elicit response. Away From Home aims to test what Hurdley (2007) has called, ‘the value and importance of the “crisis of representation" of visual data in academic research’, with the argument that visual research methods are a richer means to represent, understand, and more fully encapsulate lived experiences of migration and how difference is lived on the ground.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Media and Communication
Subjects Studies of Asian Society
Visual Cultures
Lens-based Practice
Keyword(s) home
documentary
practice
refugee
experience
belonging
displacement
permanence
absence
presence
dualities
impermanence
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Created: Thu, 29 Nov 2018, 15:28:12 EST by Keely Chapman
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