The Politics and Poetics of Union Transgression

The Role of Visual Methods in Analyzing Union Protest Strategy

in Social Analysis
Author:
Janis BaileyGriffith University

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Di McAteeIndependent scholar

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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 mater- ial (including many photographs) and ephemera were collected as part of the study. The essay examines how the use of visual repre- sentations 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 col- orful 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.”

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Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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