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The Politics and Poetics of Union Transgression

The Role of Visual Methods in Analyzing Union Protest Strategy

Janis Bailey and Di McAtee

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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Ananthakrishnan Aiyer, Janis Bailey, Sarah Baker, Gerry Bloustien, Richard Daly, John Gledhill, Bruce Kapferer, Diane Losche, Di McAtee, Barry Morris, Val Napoleon, Sarah Pink, Jane Schneider, Peter Schneider, Cris Shore, and Benjamith R. Smith

Notes on Contributors