first Ph.D. in visual sociology

We are delighted to announce that Terence Heng passed his PhD viva November 19th, 2010, being the first to graduate with a PhD in Visual Sociology.

His examiners were Les Back and Miri Song.

His thesis was titled ‘Making Chineseness in Transdiasporic Space: It’s a Matter of Ethnic Taste’

good luck for all the exiting things to come!

Photography, Visual Poetry and Ethnic Taste

extract from Terence’s working paper, presented at the BSA conference 2010.

“I will cast my photography as visual poetry in order to improve and enrich my
understanding of productions of Singaporean Chineseness in weddings. I will first argue that
seeing a photograph as a visual poem solves two obstacles to using photography in social
research – a lack of a sufficient and robust framework for reading photographs, and a lack of
aesthetic rigour in photographs presented. Visual poetry distinguishes itself from
photography-as-text by espousing an aesthetic quality that creates an empathetic relationship
between reader and subject, thereby immersing the reader in ways text alone cannot achieve.
I will outline a set of guidelines on how photography as visual poetry should be read, and
propose areas in which sociologists can improve the aesthetic quality of the photographs they
take and present.


Part of the work that we need to do as visual sociologists is to reach out to researchers who do not think
photography is a valid method or who treat the act of taking photographs during research with
a degree of trepidation. Creating an accessible, understandable and easy to implement
framework is essential for visual sociology’s continued growth and acceptance amongst a
larger group of sociologists.”


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