Arts-based research is an emerging qualitative research approach that brings together scholarly inquiry and creative processes using any of the myriad of available art forms (or combinations of arts forms) in any of the stages of the research process: as a topic of inquiry — inquiring into an art work, art practice or a creative process; in generating, interpreting and/or representing/disseminating research. ABR has gained much ground over the past decade in various fields including education, nursing & other health sciences fields, art therapy, sociology, communications studies and the fine arts and design – in fields which value human experience and interaction; which recognize personal, emotional, experiential & embodied expressions of knowledge; where the arts are seen as ways of knowing and creative processes as ways of making meaning; where participatory knowledge & indigenous knowledge are acknowledged.
An emerging new paradigm attitude towards “truth” and the production of knowledge has legitimized these alternative approaches to doing research and new forms of representing research in the social sciences and humanities. From a postmodern perspective, alternative or arts-based research methods challenge empirical forms that reduce human experience to knowledge claims of certainty and truth, rather seeing truth and knowledge as individual, contextual, contingent and always in process. Arts-based inquiry encourages the expression of multiple truths, the interaction of these truths to make new individual and communal meanings and raise further questions. Moreover arts-based methods problematize the relationship between knowledge and power in our society, exposing knowledge as socially constructed, creating open texts that strive to give voice to those often silenced in our society.
The arts offer various methods for generating, interpreting and representing research. In recent years more and more arts-based methods have found their way into the mainstream (as journal articles, books, conference presentations) including fiction, narrative, autoethnography, reader’s theatre, poetry, photography, music, collage, drawing, sculpture, quilting, stained glass, performance, dance, etc. In this course, we will investigate the philosophical underpinnings of new paradigm approaches to research and the methodological development of arts-based research in the social sciences. In this course we will explore postmodern philosophies of art; visual cultural studies approaches; performance ethnography; participatory research, indigenous approaches, and other arts-based approaches in various fields. We will ponder questions of how to judge quality in ABR, the ethical commitments of ABR and the challenges of doing arts-based work. We will examine exemplars of arts-based methods in the work of others and engage in creative activities to explore conceptual and autoethnographic aspects of our own research interests.