Participatory Action Research

Set against the backdrop of “Fortress Europe”, mainstream media often produces dichotomising narratives of “villain” or “hero”. This minimising effect, without nuance or depth, presents a picture of Agamben’s theory of the state of exception and the stripped-bare human who has lost their political voice in transit. This research examines power relations between nation-states, the European Union and the Stateless Refugee. Their stories are silenced from mainstream media and other public records. With 100 million people now globally displaced, how can these communities withhold identity, culture and heritage as something tangible? How can these communities preserve their stories, cultural understandings, and experiences? The Soundseekers Audio Festival attempts to counter these marginalising myths by creating a safe learning environment where participants can develop radio, digital storytelling, and broadcasting skills, enabling creativity and ownership of their stories. These stories are archived and contribute towards shaping a cultural identity of refugees’ experiences in Europe during what is known as the “Century of the Refugee”.

The Soundseekers Audio Festival is an online and FM broadcast series multimedia festival with 40 broadcasting partners that aims to inspire conversations with community radio broadcasting and European audiences with the aim of critical engagement and reflection on issues of international displacement. This research examines the ability of Refugee/Asylum/Migrant/Undocumented communities to participate and engage in culturally immersive projects in multi-mediated spaces to create their narratives.

The use of digital and social media tools allows for this project to transcend geographical boundaries and allows for those seeking asylum to share skills, knowledge, and ideas with other groups of asylum seekers.  The project uses a participatory action research approach allowing facilitators and participants to evolve and create together. Refugee/Asylum/Migrant/Undocumented communities engage in 21st-century skills of creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking, allowing these communities to represent themselves through community radio platforms. The research attempts to go beyond the “capacity building” of digital skills and transgresses into evolving critical consciousness for participants and facilitators. The project’s pedagogical approach is deeply rooted in a Freirean understanding that “education is not neutral”. The research sits at the juncture of critical digital pedagogy, community radio, and participatory action research and ultimately ends up as an archive for future generations that contributes towards shaping and identifying narratives that capture a moment in time. The approach selected for narrative analysis is voice centred relational method.

Results emerging from the project include a pedagogy of care in reflective practice, 31 audio documentaries ranging from topics such as gender-based violence, LGBTQ issues, war, and other social justice topics which participants felt were important. The project won a gold CRAOL award in Ireland, was nominated in Best Digital Category at Prix Europa, Berlin and one of our stories was selected for IFC-Audio in Iceland.