Visual activism and social justice: using visual methods to make young people’s complex lives visible across ‘public’ and ‘private’ spaces

S. Wilson, EJ Milne

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6 Citations (Scopus)
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Much critical social justice research, including work employing visual methods, focuses on young people’s use of public spaces leaving domestic spaces relatively unexplored. Such research tacitly maintains modernist notions of the public/private distinction in which the private sphere is considered less relevant to concerns of social justice. However, UK crime and social justice policy has increasingly intervened in the home lives of the poorest British families. Further, such policies have been legitimated by drawing on (or not contesting) media imagery that constructs these family lives almost entirely negatively, obscuring their complexity. Drawing on childhood studies research, and a project that employed visual methods to explore belonging among young people in foster, kinship or residential care, this article examines participants’ often fragile efforts to find or forge places in which they could feel ‘at home’ and imagine a future. In so doing, it invites visual activists to reconsider their understanding of public and private spaces in order to contest prevalent unsympathetic policy representations of poorer young people’s lives, to focus greater attention on their need for support, and to extend imaginations of their futures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-156
JournalCurrent Sociology
Issue number1
Early online date31 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016



Economic and Social Research Council


  • public/private spaces
  • social justice
  • visual activism
  • visual methods
  • young people

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