Escaping from the visual: story of a failed Participatory Video experience in rural Tanzania


  • Caterina Pozzobon Interuniversity Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning, Polytechnic of Turin and University of Turin, Turin, Italy


This paper reflects on the limitations of participatory video (PV) starting from a failed implementation of this method during fieldwork for my doctoral dissertation on gendered community water management in two rural villages in central Tanzania that spanned from April to December 2022. The initial eagerness of the participants to take part in the collaborative video turned into an escape from the visual, and the promises contained in a range of debates on the use of PV did not hold. Participant engagement, community empowerment, inclusion of marginalised viewpoints, and the transformative potential of PV struggled to perform in this case study. Eventually, the use of video stood in the way and emptied the participatory process of its ability to release its transformative potential. Moreover, the complexities of my positioning in the field, oscillating between different perceived roles, influenced the PV process and played a role in people’s gradual withdrawal from the visual. These are the themes around which this paper revolves, with the aim of contributing to the body of literature reflecting on knowledge co-production in contexts characterised by unavoidable and systemic imbalances and barriers.


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The language of images (edited by Elisa Bignante and Marco Maggioli)