Searching for Tomorrow—South Sudanese Women Reconstructing Resilience through Photovoice

Author(s): Erin PEARCE ; Kathleen MCMURRAY ; Christine WALSH ; Linda MALEK


Constricted definitions of resiliency have limited application to refugees who typically negotiate complex interpersonal, intercultural, historical, and geopolitical factors in order to overcome the challenges of flight, exile, forced migration, and resettlement. Researchers were approached by eight South Sudanese refugee women resettled in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, who were interested in exploring alternative notions of resilience through reflection, dialogue, and action. Participatory action research methodology was chosen to co-create knowledge as an alternative to Western-centric resiliency discourse. This approach prioritizes under-represented voices through democratic co-participation, reflecting the lived experiences of refugees through collaborative research strategies and maximizes the capacity of this minority population to meaningfully contribute to the academic discourse. Using Photovoice, a technique that employs still photography and text captions, participants used aesthetic expression to deconstruct and reconstruct notions of resilience. Six, monthly 3-h focus groups were conducted on topics pertaining to resilience during which still images were reviewed. Adopting a grounded theory approach, line-by-line coding and thematic analysis of the focus group transcripts were completed in order to respond to the research question. Faith and spirituality, circles of support, and the global community were the key overarching themes describing participants’ resilience process which enabled participants to survive their past foster support in the present and harness hope for the future. At each stage, supporting and protective factors and threats undermining resiliency were identified. In conclusion, recommendations for an enhanced conceptualization of resilience were made for resettlement service providers and those engaging with refugee populations.


South Sudanese refugee women, Resilience, Participatory action research, Photovoice 

Tags: Sudan, Canada, Women, Refugees, Resilience

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