Collecting Stories of Identity and Culture with Young people: The Synallactic Collective Image Technique

Iqbal, Humera; Crafter, Sarah and Prokopiou, Evangelia (2023). Collecting Stories of Identity and Culture with Young people: The Synallactic Collective Image Technique. In: Cameron, Claire; Koslowski, Alison; Lamont, Alison and Moss, Peter eds. Social Research for our Times: Thomas Coram Research Unit past, present and future. London: UCL Press, pp. 251–269.



The leader of an arts-based workshop, Evangelia, has asked the young people involved to consider a time they translated or interpreted and to think about how they were feeling. One young man named Tariq looks unsure and mumbles, ‘I don’t got feelings’ and then asks the question more loudly: ‘do you have feelings when you translate, do you have feelings?’. A couple of his friends smile but no one replies. Throughout the workshop he casts sideways looks at the others’ drawings. In the end, with a black pen he draws an oval face, with two round circles for eyes that are blank in the middle. The face has a little bit of hair, a line for a nose and a round circle for the mouth. The only bit of colour is a red tongue in the mouth. It is a stark face, for its lack of detail. For his story Tariq writes: ‘don’t have any story about translating, mean I do but don’t really remember them’, and ‘don’t have any feelings while I am translating’, and on the back of his drawing he writes ‘#Nofeelings’ and, a little further down the page, ‘Concern’. This excerpt is drawn from an arts-based workshop which was part of an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project, based at the Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU) between 2014–17. The project focused on child language brokers; children and young people who translate and interpret for family members, peers and the local community. In this chapter, we focus on one of our arts-based workshops that employed the Synallactic Collective Image Technique (SCIT), a technique used for sharing personal and collective stories, memories and experiences. In this instance, we brought together a group of young language brokers (aged 13–16) who took part in a SCIT workshop. Through sharing individual drawings and narratives of personal experiences of language brokering, interpersonal transactions within the group unfold.

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