Photovoice Projects Now on View at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library

Professor Edward Mamary, Health Science and Recreation, served as Principal Investigator on two Photovoice projects. Photovoice is a group analysis method combining photography with grassroots social action, and is commonly used in the fields of community development, public health, and education. Participants are asked to represent their communities or express their points of view by photographing scenes that highlight research themes. Common research themes may include community concerns, community assets, or health barriers and facilitators. These photographs are collaboratively interpreted, and narratives can be developed that explain how the photos highlight a particular research theme. These narratives are used to better understand the community and help plan health or social programs that address community needs.

“I am proud to say that two Photovoice projects will be sponsored for separate viewing by the San José State University Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” says Professor Mamary.  “They are scheduled to be exhibited in the second floor exhibit area of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library.”

The first community-based project “A Tapestry of Resilience: Wrestling with Our Jewish Experience,” showcases the lived experiences of Jewish community members in the San Francisco Bay Area and will be shown from November 9th through mid-day December 1st, 2016.  The second project, Living in an Unfinished America: Shared Experiences of Discrimination and Resilience by Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Americans,” will be showcased late-afternoon December 1st through December 21st, 2016.

“Given the current political environment, it is important that we invite the public to explore and gain insight into how groups of people have used their own voices to combat hate,” says Professor Mamary.   “Using the community engaged method of Photovoice, our participants in both groups have responded to prejudice and discrimination by sharing their own stories through photography and narrative.  Their stories not only reveal the challenges they have encountered, but how they have responded to these challenges with resilience, cultural pride, and self-determination.”

Photovoice Projects:

Not A Personal Choice

Not A Personal Choice

This picture portrays myself either putting on or taking off a scarf.  I used to wear the hijab, but I ended up taking it off.  To this day, I still struggle with the choice I’ve made, and I hope to one day put it back on.  We live in a society that encourages personal choice, just as long as it follows the norm.  But racism, prejudice, and stereotyping took away my personal choice and my freedom of religion.  It affected my job, my ability to make friends, my ability to be heard, and my ability to be happy.


To Hide or Stand Out?

To Hide Or To Stand Out

This photo shows people passing by my friend near Sather Gate as he stands there contemplating whether or not to display his Jewish Star on campus.  Two photos are layered on top of each other – one of him wearing the Star around his neck and one without – to give you a feeling of the frustration and sadness I feel as a college student.

Every day on campus, I have these feelings of isolation and having to choose whether to blend in and lose my identity or to stand out and be judged for my upbringing and religious and cultural ties. There have been several times on campus where I’ve walked by, and if I’m wearing a Jewish symbol, I get dirty looks. It is a constant struggle.

There are so many movements to accept people who are different, to not judge or stereotype them, but when it comes to Jews, we are seen as different and many think it is okay to cast their prejudices on us.

As a Jewish person, I feel I have to choose whether to hide or stand out.  Do I want to be labeled as a Jew, which has a lot of negative attention associated with it, or do I want to just blend in and hide my history and culture?


Dr. Edward Mamary Leads Photovoice Project

Dr. Edward Mamary, a Health Science and Recreation professor, was recently a Principal Investigator on a project entitled “Living in an Unfinished America: Shared Experiences of Discrimination and Resilience by Arab, Muslim & Sikh Americans.” Spurred by a series of anti-Arab and anti -Muslim advertisements placed on San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency vehicles (and upheld in other jurisdictions as legal under the First Amendment), the project was sponsored by the City and County of San Francisco Human Rights Commission, with support from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

The project used a participatory action research methodology called “Photovoice,” to explore the lived experience of those coping with Islamophobia and anti-Arab prejudice. The Arab American, Muslim, and Sikh participants came from a wide range of backgrounds in terms of age, race/ethnicity, religion, and language. Using photography and narrative, participants shared their experiences with prejudice and discrimination. They also revealed how they met these challenges with resilience, cultural pride, and self-determination.

Defending My Son

Using photography and narrative, a Palestinian American women shares her experience with prejudice and discrimination with a picture of her son.

A Palestinian American woman used Photovoice to share her experience with prejudice and discrimination with a picture of her son.

This is my son. His name was Osama. I chose a picture of his school to show with his picture. After 9/11, many people at his school (students, teachers, and staff) tormented him. One teacher in particular continually called him Osama Bin Laden. He had nothing to do with his name and we had nothing to do with what happened on 9/11. They made it like it was his fault. He was 20 years old when he got shot. They said it was mistaken identity, but he got shot because he’s a Middle Easterner, because he had Arabic writing on his car. And they tried to make it seem like he just was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Every time I pass that school, I wish I could see if someone needs help or is being discriminated against. I would want them to know that nothing is wrong with them. I joined this project because of my son. He is not alive to defend himself. I raised my kids to defend themselves. I was raised to stand up for what I believe in and for my religion—how to behave, how to act, how to respect, how to love.

—Fayza, Palestinian American Muslim woman

Tying Turbans

A Sikh American man uses photovoice to describe how he overcame discrimination with the help of his parents and wearing his turban proudly.

A Sikh American man used photovoice to describe how he overcame discrimination with the help of his parents and wearing his turban proudly.

Here is an older Sikh man tying a turban on one of my good friends. This captures a very special moment from our culture, when a Sikh dad or father-like figure ties a turban on his son or daughter. It is like slowly tying valuable cultural ideals into each and every fold of the fabric. It helps the younger generation understand who they are and helps them define their identity. This photo reminded me of the time my dad tied a turban on me as a teen. I didn’t like it, especially because I got called racist slurs at school. After that experience, I went on to eighth grade and cut my hair. I didn’t feel good about myself. My parents would tell me stories of how the Sikh Gurus sacrificed their whole families so Sikhs can wear their turbans like crowns and practice their faith proudly and fearlessly. In eleventh grade, I started growing my hair again and started tying a turban. I feel connected to my roots now and every layer of my turban helps me stand tall in a crowd, proud to be a Sikh.

—Harkanwar, Sikh American man

The photos and narratives were exhibited at public events at the San Francisco City Hall Rotunda in April 2015, and at the Women’s Building in August 2015, providing an opportunity for dialogue with policy members, educators, health care providers, and the community at large.

Poster for the exhibition of photovoice held on August 12, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

Poster for the exhibition of Photovoice held on August 12, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

Community partners on the project included the Asian Law Caucus, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Arab Cultural and Community Center, the Islamic Network Group, the Sikh Coalition, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. A second Photovoice project on anti-semitism is underway, with the first exhibit to debut in early spring. Along with Dr. Lynne Andonian, an Occupational Therapy associate professor, Dr. Mamary will be presenting a workshop session on Photovoice at the College of Applied Sciences and Arts’ Center for Applied Research on Human Services (CARHS) Brown Bag event in spring 2016.