Bowes-Catton et al. (2011)

Bowes-Catton, H., Barker, M., & Richards, C. (2011). ‘I didn’t know that I could feel this relaxed in my body’: Using visual methods to research bisexual people’s embodied experiences of identity and space. In P. Reavey (Ed.) Visual Methods in psychology: using and interpreting images in qualitative research’. pp.255-270. London: Routledge.


Recent research into bisexuality has tended to use discourse analysis to explore bisexual people’s articulations of identity. Such research demonstrates that, although many bi people argue that they experience their identities as coherent and unified, and vehemently reject binary categories of sex, gender, and sexuality as bogus and constructed (Bowes-Catton, 2007), such discourses inevitably creep back into their identity talk (Barker, Bowes-Catton, Iantaffi, Cassidy & Brewer, 2008) resulting in ‘structurally fractured’ articulations of identity (Ault, 1996). Following the ‘turn to the body’ in sociological and psychological research (Featherstone, Hepworth & Turner, 1991; Stam, 1998; Reavey, 2008), we argue that an approach to identity research which privileges discourse makes it difficult for participants to articulate identities outside of the prevailing binary categories of male/female, straight/gay, and obscures experiential and material aspects of sexual identity such as embodied experience and performativity. Our research therefore aims to move towards an understanding of the ways in which bisexual identity is grounded in the bodily practices and performances of lived experience. In this chapter, we present preliminary results from the application of visual methods, such as modelling and photography, to bisexual people’s embodied experience of space, with the aim of moving towards an understanding of the experience and production of bisexual identity, both in everyday life, and in bisexual spaces such as BiCon, the annual gathering of the UK bisexual community.


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