Background: Since feminist and environmental frameworks are committed to troubling the apparatus that produce and reproduce asymmetrical power relations in our society, being an activist and member of the LGBQTTA community, enables me to use my personal experiences with discrimination and marginalization when I approach my participatory/action oriented and community–based research. I consider these experiences an asset to my research.
Past Research: As a young scholar, I have been developing creative and groundbreaking new approaches to qualitative research by using visual arts and exhibits to spark policy dialogue amongst those in power, the general public and marginalized communities with the ultimate goal of promoting social change. In my Ph.D. research titled “The heART of Social Movement and Learning”, I used arts–based methodologies interwoven with theories of social movement, community–based research and environmental adult education. With these theoretical and methodological frameworks, my objectives were to explore the role of visual arts and exhibits in questioning power, injustices, and to inform new and inclusive public polices that affect positively the livelihoods of marginalized families in São Paulo–Brazil. More specifically, in this research project, I facilitated three different arts–based workshops (abstract painting, impressionism painting, and mosaic) in collaboration with members of the National Recycling Social Movement. The artworks produced during these workshops illustrated research participants’ stories of poverty, social exclusion, and their victories toward a better future for themselves. In addition to the art workshops, I curated and monitored a mobile art gallery displaying participants’ art works. Seven art exhibits was set up in different City Halls in Brazil, where politicians and policy makers had the chance to contemplate the artworks and had face–to–face interactions with research participants. All the art workshops and exhibits including conversations amongst policy makers, research participants and the general public were video and audio recorded and represented the primary data source of this research project. I also used discourse analysis, visual methodologies, combined with a cognitive developmental approach as analytical tools to understand the recorded materials. The process of creating and exhibiting their paintings, mediated participants’ construction of their visual thought, and in this way, they were able to (re)imagine a different reality for themselves, a process in which Paulo Freire identify as the pedagogy of possible dreams. This empowered participants because it added value to their work as members of the National Recycling Social Movement, and increased their sense of self–worth, because they were able to participate in policy dialogues that affect positively their well–being. My findings suggest that community art exhibits are policy dialogical spaces, where knowledge about public policies, environmental education, and community development is co–constructed and mobilized. These art exhibits were also alternative sources for income generation for research participants and were in fact, environmental adult education practices. These findings extended the current state of knowledge around social economy, arts–based and community–based research, and environmental education. My research results have been disseminated through peer–review journals, gray literature, art shows in Canada and in Brazil, and through social media and have opened windows for further research funds.
Current Research: My SSHRC funded postdoctorate titled: “Investigating the Mathematics of Mainstream Deaf and hard of Hearing Elementary Students: An (Em)bodied Approach, explores the relationship(s) between children’s bodily actions, mathematical ideas, and their conceptual understandings of elementary mathematics in the classroom. This research contributes to scholarship and the practicalities of teaching arts and mathematics in the elementary classroom in five important ways. First, it extends current theoretical discourses that are grounded in tenets of embodied knowing by providing empirical evidence of the role of the physical body in the conceptual development of elementary children’s mathematical learning. Second, the long-term studies offer detailed ethnographic accounts of how children’s bodily mathematical actions and interactions evolve over time. Third, the theoretical analyses from our research informs the field of mathematics education on the impact that bodily mathematical (inter)actions have on students’ written, spoken, informal, formal, and mental mathematics. Fourth, these studies identify key implications for the assessment of children’s embodied ways of knowing and learning mathematics. Fifth, as a result of the team’s theory building, research provides insight into developing teaching practices that focus on children’s embodiment of mathematics in the early elementary grades.
Future Research: I am tailoring a new research proposal to be submitted to SSHRC in September 2018. This two years long research project titled: “Participatory digital story telling – bridging leadership, sustainability and research on waste management” is built upon the graduate and undergraduate courses on digital arts and design, and “Leadership through the arts” that I have successfully tailored and delivered (for two years) at the University of Victoria. In addition, my previous PhD research on arts and social movements that I have described above, will inform the present study. This postdoctoral research proposal will contribute to an already existing larger scope SSHRC (Connection and Insight programs) funded titled: “Mapping waste governance”; a development partnership amongst academic institutions from Brazil, Canada, Mongolia, and Nicaragua. “Mapping waste governance” seeks to identify, examine and document grassroots social innovations and challenges in waste governance in different geographic regions. Digital story telling is a research method in which, through image production, unique teachable moments are reveled helping to shape public agendas for policy change and, in fact, influencing public decisions. Around the globe, the visual arts have been applied as a research methodology to help marginalized communities to fight for social inclusion. Currently literature,however, has yet to explore: a) how, specifically, digital story telling can mediate dialogue about sustainability, and environmental injustices amongst marginalized communities, the general public, and policy makers; and b) how digital story telling can form new community leaders who are engaged in public decision–making processes. My future research will fill this void by tracing the relationship between awareness–raising practices and participants’ social inclusion on governmental agendas. I will, collaboratively with members of the recycling social movement from the four countries cited above, produce a series of digital stories to explore whether these digital stories create policy dialogue around environmental injustices. Specifically, by working with 10 community members who are affiliated with the recycling social movement from the four countries, my objectives are to: (a) monitor individual and community empowerment as an outcome of creation of digital stories; (b) evaluate the effectiveness of visual arts in alleviating discrimination experienced by marginalized communities; and, (c) determine whether visual arts can be used as a communication tool to enhance participation in agenda–setting process. My research will respond to the following: Can digital story telling create spaces for policy dialogue around environmental issues and include marginalized communities in setting the public agenda? In this research project I will work across campus and disciplines. I will apply qualitative research methods that are community–based and action–oriented, processes in which community members make positive social change and promote social equity. I will also use arts–based methodologies informed by feminist theories to, additionally, problematize the exclusion and omission of women in public decisions.
Research Outcomes: Building upon work in arts–based and community–based methodologies, as well as that of environmental adult education, and public policy, my research will contribute to this stream of literature by evaluating the effectiveness of art–policy intersections in promoting participants’ social inclusion. It will focus on governmental– and decisional–agendas: are inclusive waste management alleviation techniques already on either agenda, or do they rise to the agenda following the digital story telling? With this focus, my research will evaluate the effectiveness of making participants’ livelihoods visible to members of the government who are rarely in contact with society’s poorest segments. In addition, it will uncover whether and how digital stories empowers marginalized communities to engage in public decisions. Ultimately, my research expands the current field of arts–based methodologies, community development and environmental adult education by introducing digital story telling to the field by exploring participants’ agency, identity, and sense of place, while drawing on an agenda–setting policy framework.