Experiences in Researching Collective Identities by Photo Elicited Narratives in Times of a Turbulent Europe

    • Presentation speakers
      • Elisabeth Donat, Danube University Krems, Austria
      • Ulrike Guerot, Danube University Krems, Austria


    Researching collective identities raises more questions than ever in times of an on-going globalization, individualization and a historically turbulent situation in Europe and the European Union. Social sciences are still lacking answers among central questions of (collective) identities: Is it possible to identify with a collective without refusing out-groups (e.g. constructive patriotism)? Can collective identities at various geographical and political levels – regional, national, supranational – coexist, or have all of them become subject to a more fluid, globalized identity? Is identity formation part of a rational process in weighting pros and cons of belonging to a certain group, or is it primarily guided by emotions? And if so, which consequences arise from this kind of commitment on political and societal engagement? Using photo elicited interviews to reconstruct collective identities we go one step back in research before using standardized questionnaires as the most common – and by now quite unsatisfying – way in researching collective identities. Recognizing the “visual turn” in social sciences, we investigate narrative identities constructed around the pictures in use and therefore getting a deeper understanding – especially of the emotional components – of identities of our respondents. Experiences with this technique are in the center of our contribution, as well as conclusions about possible components of modern collective identities. Therefore we are firstly analyzing our material along the question which characteristics could be relevant in forming a constructive collective identity, and secondly providing some preliminary, methodological guidelines for using this technique in similar research projects.