Using Participatory, Visual and Biographical Methods with Roma Youth

  • Oana Marcu Catholic University of the Sacred Heart Milan
Keywords: participatory action research, visual methods, focus groups, biographical interviews, metaphor analysis, Roma youth, drug use, addiction


The article deals with drug use by young Roma as members of a marginalized population. It reflects on the use of collages and of metaphor analysis on images produced by participants within an action-research approach. Additionally, various stakeholders were involved in a participatory manner in defining research questions, priorities and strategies. In order to understand young Roma's perceptions on drugs, 23 visual focus groups and 58 life-story interviews were conducted in five European countries. In the focus groups, young people built collages to represent drugs and then explained their meanings. Metaphor analysis was used to analyze the data. With the biographical interviews, histories of consumption from drug users were gathered.

Among the trends identified are the early onset of tobacco use, exposure to consumption of alcohol by adults, underestimation of the consequences of many drugs, addiction to injecting drug use in specific areas. Gender roles are strongly associated with patterns of consumption. Roma young people also express belonging and reclaim positive social status by using certain types of drugs and by sharing consumption patterns with non-minority young people. The research process also illustrates how qualitative research can contribute to selective prevention programs.



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Author Biography

Oana Marcu, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart Milan

Oana MARCU, Ph.D., is lecturer at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences at the Catholic University of Milan, working in the field of social research methodology. Her main interests are action research and qualitative methods, in particular ethnography and visual methods. The main topics she works on are Roma youth, migration and intersectionality. She teaches social research methodology and is an associate of Codici Social Research Agency, with whom she has conducted various action-research projects with Roma and Sinti.

How to Cite
Marcu, O. (2015). Using Participatory, Visual and Biographical Methods with Roma Youth. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 17(1).
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