Dr Sonja Marzi


Final documentary ‘Volviendo a Vivir’ from ESRC funded project now publicly available to watch

The goal of this project was to respond to the challenges of methodological co-production and participatory action research – which are almost always conducted face-to-face – that arise during emergencies by developing an innovative remote participatory visual method using smartphones. In collaboration with displaced women in Colombia and a London-based film company, we co-developed and tested a novel and pioneering remote participatory filming method and co-produced knowledge on women’s displacement experiences and how they settled in their respective cities in Bogotá and Medellín. As a result of this co-production research project we co-produced a documentary called ‘Volviendo a Vivir’. This 23-minute-long documentary shows women’s testimonies on their displacement and the challenges they encountered in their contemporary homes in Bogotá and Medellín. To co-produce the documentary, we piloted our pioneering method of participatory filming remotely. Over 10 months we connected in weekly zoom workshops. Women used their smartphones to connect to Zoom, to film documentary material in the form of short 2-3- minutes videos according to pre-defined themes, and to send the videos via a transfer app to the PI. The whole process was online, apart from one fieldwork stay where the PI went to Colombia for face-to-face workshops in January and February 2022, one in each city, Bogotá and Medellín.

Please do take a look and watch this amazing documentary, which has English subtitles.

Co-produced website on women’s right to the city in Medellin and urban futures – Fritz-Thyssen funded research project

While I had to halt this research during the peak of the pandemic I was able to visit Medellín in Colombia last August 2022. During this time I had several workshops with 15 conflict-affected women to co-produce knowledge on their Right to the City. This is a Fritz-Thyssen funded project and explores with conflict-affected women there lived and experienced urban challenges and inequalities and their actions and activism within their communities and beyond to build better urban futures. I am very proud to present our co-produced webpage summarising the main findings of this project in Spanish and in textual as well as audio-visual format.

Please take a look:  https://futurosurbanosdesd.wixsite.com/futuros-urbanos

This Fritz-Thyssen foundation funded project explores the urban inequalities and challenges of conflict-affected and displaced women in Medellín, Colombia. The project aims to provide answers to the question of how women in Medellin, especially mothers and heads of household, negotiate their ‘right to the city’? Medellin, Colombia’s second city, is labelled as a ‘model’ city in terms of its participatory community development that addresses exclusion and spatial immobility of its poor communities (for example through infrastructural developments, such as cable cars). However, while the city is praised for its urban planning and development approaches, conflict-affected and displaced women are a particularly disadvantaged group in poorer neighbourhoods in Medellin because they lack support networks, experience greater insecurity and (gender based) violence, face challenges of spatial and social mobility, and have fewer opportunities to participate in their community and urban development. At the end cities are still mostly build by and for men, something which we challenge with this project and hopefully will be able to contribute to change. Therefore, this project highlights the need to understand the gendered dimension of the right to the city – the right to being able to fully ‘use’ the city, and have access to its resources as well as the right to shape and participate in changing the city according to women’s needs and aspirations for more feminised urban futures (see also: Bastia 2017; Fenster, 2005; Harvey, 2012; McIlwaine, 2022)

This is a co-production research project and explores women’s gendered right to the city and imaginations of feminised urban futures with a special focus on their migration/ displacement and socio-spatial mobilities, their access to public goods and resources, and how they manage their private and economic lives while living with and resisting different forms of violence and insecurity in their everyday lives. We explore these issues by co-producing knowledge with a group of women participants in Medellín through an innovative hybrid participatory action research design. This means by working remotely/online as well as face-to-face over a period of several years we used audio-visual methods such as photography, filming, podcasts and co-produced material during workshops and interviews to explore, discuss and conceptualise women’s challenges and inequalities they face in Medellin as well as how they resist those actively by imaging and working towards their desired feminised urban futures.

We present the results of this research on this webpage. The content of this webpage has been produced by the women of this project. It shows their arrival in the city and highlights the different challenges they identified as most pressing in their everyday lives. Issues of insecurity when using public transport, housing and access to public service as well as being able to meaningfully participate in their neighbourhood and city development have been identified as issues that need greater attention to build their aspired feminised urban futures. We hope you can take the time to take a look at the different issues and appreciate the different forms of audio-visual and textual information women co-produced here. Special thanks go as well to the University of Glasgow who funded the development of this webpage with a Glasgow Knowledge Exchange Fund.

Please take a look:  https://futurosurbanosdesd.wixsite.com/futuros-urbanos

Even for those not being able to read in Spanish I suggest to look at it and scroll through the different themes for audio-visual content.

New ESRC funded project: Co-producing knowledge during emergencies and pandemics: developing remote participatory visual methods using smartphones

I am happy to announce that I have received a highly competitive ESRC grant to develop a remote participatory visual methodology using smartphones.

The project started in January 2021 and in collaboration with my Co-Is Professor Rachel Pain and Dr Jen Tarr from Newcastle University as well as Spectacle (a film production company in London, UK), Lina Maria Zuluaga (independent researcher, Colombia) and Maria Fernanda Carrillo (Filmmaker and lecturer at UNAM, Mexico), we will respond to the challenges of methodological co-production and participatory action research that arise during emergencies.

We will develop and test a novel and pioneering remote participatory visual method for co-production researchers, applying participatory filming remotely to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s new lived realities of urban life. The whole research process, from development to dissemination, will be conducted online.  by developing an innovative remote participatory visual method using smartphones.

Keep up to date with the project on its website here: http://bit.ly/2M2mTEH


Video Teaser from my project ‘Reinventada: the realities of women in Medellín during the pandemic’.

Since May 2020 I am in the process of developing a pioneering approach to conduct remote participatory video research using participant’s smartphones 

Funded by an LSE Knowledge Exchange and Impact fund and with the support of a brilliant team of London based film makers that specialise in participatory community film making (Spectacle), a Colombian research assistant, and a Colombian documentary film maker, we trained the participants during online workshops on how best to use their smartphones for quality shots and first filming techniques. Additionally, we meet weekly in online workshops to discuss present and future film content with the aim to produce a final documentary about the everyday lives of the women in Medellin during the 2020 pandemic.

Please see here the project website: www.reinventada.org 

The majority of women participants live in poorer neighbourhoods in Medellín, are head of household, have care responsibilities and work in the informal economy. Many of them have been displaced or migrated in any form in the past to live in Medellín or moved within the city. Before the start of the project only few have been technological literate and none had any filming experience or knowledge.

During the last few months we all worked collaboratively to learn how best to realise a participatory video project purely remotely and how to film videos about the women’s lives and of Medellín that they believe is important to communicate while being hit by the 2020 pandemic and its consequences.

The women of this study became proficient in filming with their smartphones, sending data and joining online workshops. Currently we are in the post-production phase of the project and we hope that we are able to show you a final collaboratively produced and online edited documentary within the next months.

For now, however,  please take a look at our trailer video, of which we are very proud to the able to present to you. It already provides a remarkable impression of the topic, and filmed quality of the participatory video. But more importantly the video teaser provides crucial insights and co-produced knowledge about the women’s realities during this pandemic in Medellín.

How can we co-produce participatory visual research remotely?

Read here on my blogpost on the LSE_ID blog about my new LSE Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fund project that looks at how the pandemic impacts on women’s lives in Medellín using some pioneering participatory techniques.

Conducting transnational participatory research with women during Covid-19 remotely: an impossibility?

© 2024 Dr Sonja Marzi