In my role as the Contemplative Life Advisor at Hampshire College, I support students to practice, develop and integrate meditation, mindfulness, and related principles of awareness and compassion into their lives. This includes reflecting on key systemic forms of suffering, particularly oppression, climate disruption and other environmental damage, and potential remedies/right actions of social justice and sustainability.
In my PhD capstone methods course, I was introduced to photovoice, a visual research methodology that is used to visually capture another’s perspective by commissioning individuals to go out and capture their own lives in a meaningful, visual way. Photovoice is an emancipatory method at its roots, used to help highlight the voices of those who are often silenced in society—victims of domestic violence (Frohmann, 2005), those with a disability (Thoutenhoofd, 1997), people of color (Douglas, 1998), LGBTQ-identified individuals (Santurri, 2014), the elderly (Baker & Wang, 2006), and more.
When people first hear terms like “mindfulness” or “contemplative,” it is common for images of cross-legged silent meditation or perhaps uttering “Om” to be conjured in the listener’s mind. This is a stereotype of course, and like others, it is constructed from things that actually happen (i.e. seeing someone cross-legged and meditating and/or chanting) and then extrapolated into a caricature of reality.