Photography as Contact Zones: Migration and Cultural Encounters in America


Photography has been one of the formative ways through which cultural encounters have
been visually mediated over time and across different geographical locations. The mass
reproducibility and simultaneous distribution of photographic imagery allows individuals to
both experience other cultures and to maintain, establish and articulate cultural bonds,
form imagined communities, and share cultural experiences across and between nations.
Exploring the culturally differentiated uses and signifying practices of everyday photographic
materials and technologies in migrant communities, the project examines the use of
photography by migrant communities in America to meliorate cultural dislocation both from
their homeland and/or globally dispersed relations, and the nations, communities and
places in which they have ‘settled’ or ‘temporarily reside’. Through a comparative
framework, the project aims to understand how cultural exchange is negotiated in everyday
life, the role of photography in evidencing the social upheavals, frictions and longings of
migratory cultural experiences, and to further knowledge of how migrants creatively fashion
shared materials to communicate diverse cultural experiences. As such it has four main
research questions;
1) How do culturally distinctive uses of photography contribute to shaping new identities
amongst migrant communities in America?
2) What role do the circulation of photographic images play on the retention of collective
memories, myths and historical narratives amongst migrant communities?
3) How do photographs as material objects maintain familial ties, national and ethnic
belonging amongst Migrant communities in America?
4) In what ways do cultural exchanges form culturally differentiated photographic practices
amongst Diasporic communities?