How does arts practice engage with narratives of migration from refugees and asylum seekers? Lessons from ‘utopia’

How does arts practice engage with narratives of migration from refugees and asylum seekers? Lessons from ‘utopia’.

chool of Education-based doctoral researcher Jessica Bradley will present a paper with Performance and Cultural Industries PhD student Sam McKay as part of the School of Performance and Cultural Industries postgraduate seminar series on Tuesday 16th May 2017, 5pm - 7pm in the Alec Clegg Studio, stage@leeds. 

How does arts practice engage with narratives of migration from refugees and asylum seekers? Lessons from ‘utopia’

Sam McKay (PCI) and Jessica Bradley (Education)

In this paper we draw on data from a co-produced transdisciplinary arts and language practice and research project. In this project, researchers, artists and creative practitioners worked with refugees and refugees seeking asylum. Together we developed and led arts-based workshops which aimed to explore what it means to be ‘welcome’, how we ‘welcome’, and how we want to be ‘welcomed’. As researchers we approached the project from different disciplinary spaces, Sam from applied theatre and Jessica from sociolinguistics and linguistic ethnography. Through analysis of our co-produced artistic outputs, through ethnographic writing, and through our reflections on the processes of collaborating, we consider how arts practices engage with narratives of migration in refugee communities. We take three elements of the project: visual arts products in the form of silk paintings, community voices in the form of vignettes, and media documentation in the form of a project film. We suggest how these examples embody the processes and the community developed around the project and the different ways of working across sectors with displaced communities to engage with and enable spaces for voices to be made audible.

We play as we mean to resist – Theatre games as political participation in juvenile detention settings in Santiago, Chile

Matthew Elliott (English)

The paper presents a practice-led research project with young people in CIP San Joaquin, a juvenile detention centre based in Santiago, Chile. Delivered in collaboration with a group of popular educationalists and youth workers, theatre games were employed as an alternative to conventional educational techniques. Theatre games formed the basis of the ‘assemblies’, a participatory process where young people debated and devised the formation of the ‘CIP a Luca’ festival. The cultural festival is organised and delivered by young people based on article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child: the right to express views freely in all matters affecting the child. The project aimed to employ ‘play’ to create a space for political participation and the realisation of child rights.

The line of enquiry is to identify to what extent the playing of theatre games acted as a form of disruption to the dominant narratives of control and negativity in CIP San Joaquin. Whilst considering the aims of the project, the paper focuses on three key areas: 1. The prerequisites for play. 2. The negotiation between theatre maker and institution. 3. Moments of joy as resistance. Interweaving ideas of play, Thompson’s theatre of affect and Holloway’s autonomous model of change, the paper argues that the use of theatre games within CIP San Joaquin enabled an alternative mode of resistance within the Chilean penal system.