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Eyes on the ground and eyes in the sky: Security narratives, participatory visual methods, and knowledge production in ‘danger zones’

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Peter Chonka, Abdirahman Edle Ali, Kirsti Stuvoy

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-588
Number of pages22
JournalSecurity Dialogue
Issue number6
Accepted/In press5 May 2022
PublishedDec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This article is based on a research project funded by a (UK) ESRC/DFID grant (ES/R002355/1), with Durham University as lead research organization. Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2022.

King's Authors


This article reflects on the use of narrative interviews alongside participatory and remote-access visual methods to produce knowledge on and in conflict-affected settings. It details our iterative and reactive experiences of navigating transnational academic, policy and humanitarian networks to attempt to undertake ethical research on the security experiences of displaced people in Somali cities and facilitate their engagement with policymakers. We explore tensions in the combined use of increasingly accessible digital tools (camera-equipped smartphones and open-access satellite imagery) in facilitating a participatory, narrative-based approach to security research while also mitigating access limitations to research sites. We argue that a holistic and reflexive approach to everyday security within a technologically mediated data-collection process – for both researchers and research participants – not only is important for negotiations around ethical fieldwork, but also can be generative of findings about the research site itself. Methods are not brought into a context and deployed by researchers in ways that are fully under their control. In the case explored here, how the researchers and research participants engaged in dialogue about various methods, reflected their connections within networks of knowledge production dominated by humanitarian donors/partners, while also highlighting important aspects of displaced people’s everyday experiences of (in)security and marginalization in Somali cities.

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