Thursday 3 May 2012

Research on grassroots comics (South Africa)

Wallposter comics outside a store in Platfontein.  Picture from the dissertation.

Health Promotion in Ink: Grassroots Comics as a Medium for Participatory Communication in the Khwe community.  by Andrew Dicks

This dissertation engages in a longitudinal study of the method of grassroots comics (Packalen & Sharma, 2007) amongst the Khwe people in the community of Platfontein, which is situated outside of Kimberley, South Africa. The study is largely informed by contemporary shifts in development theory, particularly that of participatory communication, which values individuals who live in the community as active participants in the research process.

The use of grassroots comics (Packalen & Sharma, 2007) is largely based on theoretical concepts surfacing in current literature regarding the field development communication, which is somewhat critical of older, more dominant theories of development. Instead of applying a predetermined, uniform model of communication to multiple different settings in which varying development issues exist, this study is driven by the active involvement of community stakeholders throughout every stage of the research process. This includes the identification of community issues, the utilization of grassroots comics in the context of adapting and communicating about those issues on a community-wide scale, and the overall analysis of the process once research has been carried out.

This particular study focuses on general health issues and how these might affect the Khwe community from a development perspective. However, what is of central importance is how the comics created by certain stakeholders in the community might serve as a means of promoting participatory communication amongst the local population, for the sake of alleviating certain health issues prevalent in the community itself. The practical nature of grassroots comics as a forum for health communication is what is of particular interest in this study.

Purposive sampling techniques are employed in order to identify key participants and informants in the research process, to present a case-specific analysis of grassroots comics in use, and for purposes of limiting this study. Data collection methods applied to the research setting and research findings are conducted using various qualitative research techniques including participant observation, interviews, discussions and a participatory grassroots comics workshop.

Link to the dissertation (200 pages):

A quote from the study: “What I was astounded to observe, however, was the tenacity with which they worked. If I can explain it in laymen's terms, it was like they were 'on fire' when working on their respective comics.”

Indeed, this is also our experience, wherever in the world we have been running workshops.