Doctor of Philosophy in Social Science Methods
Title: The use of visual research methods in the South African research context
This study reviewed the methodological and epistemological underpinnings of visual research methods pertinent to contexts often encountered within diverse societies. Internationally, many people continue to be marginalised as a result of illiteracy, poverty, age, gender and sex. Within immense stratification, researchers working within a critical paradigm attempt to produce representative knowledge that contributes constructively to social change surrounding these groups. Image-based methods provide a research tool by which to address many of the concerns regarding challenging research contexts. Visual methods, such as photo-elicitation interviews surrounding self-produced images of participants, may facilitate researchers in crossing boundaries of power, culture and language, inherent to many research contexts.
In this study, the relevance of image-based methods to research that challenges and attempts to move beyond hegemonic discourses was argued. First, the methodological and epistemological underpinnings of visual research methods within the social sciences were explored. A typology of methods well suited for use in a dialectic process of social change was then set out. Arguments established in the theoretical discussion were illustrated with a case study that explored the experience of motherhood for teenage mothers living in an informal settlement in the Cape Flats, Cape Town, South Africa. Participants produced photographs that reflected their own understanding and experiences of motherhood. Images created the focus of individual interviews with research participants allowing these young women to bring their own, ordinarily silenced voice, to a process centred on issues these women identified as crucial to their experiences. Images together with related narratives were analysed using social constructionist grounded theory and an interlocking model of oppression that centred young mothers’ narratives and their positioning within the ‘matrix of domination’ (Collins, 1991: 225)[i] of their everyday world. Emerging results were compared with relevant literature, providing a comparative component by which to assess the applicability of visual methods to the stated research context.
Masters of Arts in Psychology (with distinction)
Title: Low-income women and mental health care: An exploratory study of non-governmental health services in the West Coast/Winelands region of South Africa
This study explored the extent to which primary mental health services are aligned with and empowering to a group of largely invisible women living and working on farms in the West Coast/Winelands region of South Africa. Through a quantitative situation analysis of organisations in the geographical region, the accessibility and theoretical underpinnings of services was reviewed. Findings demonstrated that although services and organisations often appear to be available to women in this region, this is usually not the case. Furthermore, many of these services lack a specific gender focus, rendering many women’s health issues unimportant. Conclusions drawn from the study suggest the need to increase accessibility to services in order to accommodate the restrictive context of women in this region. Furthermore, in order for services to be effective, greater integration of their approach to interventions concerning both gender and the origins of mental health problems within the region needs is required. Finally, results highlight areas on which future research could focus, including language of service provision, how organisations understand available theories surrounding service provision, and the service needs of women in this region themselves.