Many contemporary feminist projects attempt to subvert the male gaze by “bearing witness” to female trauma through visual representation. Yet these projects have tended to be under-theorized. Since visual images invoke the spectator’s experience of unmediated access to the inner world of the subject, the evocative power of photographic images may readily reproduce forms of voyeurism. This under-theorizing becomes particularly problematic in projects that document the lives of migratory and marginalized women. Drawing on several decades of prior field research and documentary film projects, Professor Haaken presents a study carried out with women refugee and asylum-seekers in the UK. In discussing photographic images from the study, Haaken provides a framework for working through a series of ethical, political, and methodological dilemmas. She draws on psychoanalytic feminist theory, critical psychology, and participatory action research methods to argue for the importance of an approach to the visual that includes the dynamics of spectatorship as well as the dynamics of the research setting itself as an affectively rich and conflicted site of knowledge production.
Janice Haaken is Professor Emerita of psychology at Portland State University, a clinical psychologist in private practice, and documentary filmmaker. Haaken has published extensively in the areas of the psychoanalysis and feminism, the psychology of storytelling, culture and memory, and group responses to violence and trauma. She is author of Pillar of Salt: Gender, Memory, and the Perils of Looking Back (1998) and Hard Knocks: Domestic Violence and the Psychology of Storytelling (2010), co-author of Speaking Out: Women, War and the Global Economy (2005), and co-editor of Memory Matters: Understanding Recollections of Sexual Abuse (2010). Her recent films include Guilty Except for Insanity and Mind Zone: Therapists Behind the Front Lines.