The fieldwork has brought with it a necessary reflection on “Ethical issues” and, therefore, on research outputs. Given the increasing vulnerability of migrants and asylum seekers in the EU, I have decided not to proceed with the direct publication on the website of the ‘audio’ of the interviews I have conducted, as indicated in the research project beforehand.
In many cases, the use of the recorder was problematic both because of the irregular situation of some of the participants encountered during the fieldwork, and because of a rapport based on openness and mutual trust that is paramount in such scenarios. The anonymisation of names, a process included in the project and also followed for paper publications, would have not been sufficient for the audios because the voices remain distinguishable.
Therefore, in order to maintain a balance between the need to disseminate results to the general public and to protect participants involved in my research, I finally decided to structure the ‘Research Diary’ not in audio but in visual form, by using comics as a vehicle for the dissemination and sharing of my fieldwork experience in Ventimiglia.
For this reason, I asked the illustrator Emiliano Serreli [Emils] to give form to my Diary from Ventimiglia which covers an extensive period: from 2016, when motivations behind the PASS project arose, to the end of 2018, when I carried out the actual fieldwork research in Ventimiglia.
The use of comics as a research tool and object of inquiry is increasingly present at the international level, as many interdisciplinary studies show (Dittmer, 2014, Peterle, 2018; see also: Geotema special issue by dell’Agnese e Amato). In the academic field, comics have drawn scholars’ attention in different ways, either as objects of investigation in and of themselves or, less commonly, as a research output used to construct the spatial narrative. My choice fits in this second line of interest. I did not analyse the space in comics nor of the comics (Peterle, 2018, p. 2); rather, I translated part of my project results into comics.
Beyond protecting informers and their anonymity, I decided to use the communication potential of this medium, which allows us to convey complex contents in a “simplified and accessible” form (Kleeman, 2006) and, in particular, to represent “uncomfortable topics”, (eg. Works by Joe Sacco – or Meet the Somalis). Thanks to comics, a space of visibility and possibilities can be opened for under-represented stories. It is not a coincidence that in the XXI century, more and more comics and graphic novels are based on migrants’ stories, collected through interviews, and used to break the silence on important political and disputed issues (De Spuches, 2016).
De Spuches, G. (2016). Abitare la diaspora in Europa. Il graphic novel come forma di geopolitica popolare. Geotema, 50, pp. 76-82.
Dittmer, J. (ed.) (2014). Comic book geographies, Mainz:Franz Steiner Verlag.
Geotema, XX. Special issue: L’esperienza migratoria e la cultura popolare: passaggi, costruzioni identitarie, alterità. Edited by dell’Agnese, E. & Amato, F. (2016).
Kleeman, G. (2006). Not just for fun: Using cartoons to investigate geographical issues. New Zealand Geographer, 62(2), pp. 144-151.
Peterle, G. (2018). Orientarsi tra le nuvole: cartografie, atlanti e pratiche mappanti nel racconto a fumetti. Spazi tra le nuvole. Lo spazio nel fumetto.