Diana Rodriguez-Gomez comes from the Department of Comparative Education at Teachers College. She is currently pursuing an Ed.D. in International Educational Development with an emphasis on Peace Education and Human Rights.
How did you get interested in the field of comparative education?
I am really interested in the connections between violence and education. This interest led me to do my M.A. in International Education and Development. When I finished my M.A. I looked for doctorate programs to further research this connection. What I found was Peace Education at Teachers College. It was the only program I found that allowed me to tackle education, armed conflict and the role of education to address violence.
What motivated you to apply for the AC4 Graduate Fellowship, and how did you hear about it?
When I first arrived to TC, I looked into all the institutions around Columbia and signed up for all the listserves of which AC4 was one. I had heard from other PhD students how they applied for this grant and I thought it was exciting to be part of a community where members are all interested in violence and war.
For my project, I conducted visual ethnography. To do this, I had to get cameras and develop the film - it was expensive! The funding really helped.
What is visual ethnography? Why did you choose this research method?
So, here’s the challenge: how do you understand the connection between armed conflict, violence, and education in a context where people are afraid to talk about war? I was very interested in how the political violence of the armed conflict was permeating daily life in a chosen school community. Photographs gave me this chance.
Photographs give you the great opportunity to go beyond an interview; in an interview one has power. When you have photographs, you give the “subject” or the other person the chance to make a selection. I was able to gain understanding: there’s all this political violence happening here but life goes on.
The children I worked with had the camera and they decided what to take. After I developed the films, I gave them the photos in a sealed envelope, so each had the chance to remove any photo they did not want to share. Then, with their selected photos, they decided what they wanted to say. This gave the photographer power to have more control and authority about their own interpretations.
Read the full interview and learn more about visual ethnography and Diana Rodriguez-Gomez here.