My dissertation project explores the construction, negotiation, and contestation of visual narrative through photographic practice, focusing specifically on photography taken in and of the built environment. Within this research area, the project examines three primary areas: the role of informal and professionalized creative labor in the constitution of personal, local, national narratives of globalness, site-specific photography as generative practice that situates narrative in socio-spatial place, and importance of visual culture in the form of architecture and photography in the claims to personal and municipal belonging within the context of global urbanism. Through these focal points, my research examines how the visual representative practice of photography configures lived sociospatial relations and contextualizes these localized experiences within global networks of urbanism and flows of capital.
This project was initially conceptualized as a single-site visual ethnographic study centered in Qingdao, China. Between 2017 and 2018, I conducted four months of pilot research in Qingdao and it was my intention to return to Qingdao this year with the intent to begin my dissertation fieldwork. However, in the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic and global health crisis, it is uncertain when I will be able to return to China. In response, I have worked with my committee to reevaluate my dissertation project, ultimately deciding to add a comparative dimension that would enable me to continue to move forward with field research despite the ongoing uncertainty surrounding field research. With the funding support of this fellowship, I propose to initiate a North American field site in Vancouver, Canada that will serve as a comparison to my field site in Qingdao, China.