For space considerations this section mainly focuses on arts-based research methodology. Even though the performative research paradigm, which is claimed by Haseman (2006) to be a new research paradigm besides the qualitative research paradigm would also be interesting to include. The distinction Haseman makes between qualitative and performative research is that performative research chooses to express its findings in non-numeric data, “as symbolic forms other than in the words of discursive text” (Haseman 2006, p. 5). Research findings are made as presentational forms they; “deploy symbolic data in the material forms of practice; forms of still and moving images; forms of music and sound; forms of live action and digital code” (Haseman 2006, p. 5). Haseman points out that there also has been a movement like this among several qualitative researchers in the past decade, including the “performance turn” in qualitative research (Mary M. Gergen and Gergen 2003; Lincoln and Denzin 2003).
It can be discussed whether the performative research paradigm is a new research paradigm or just a new field within the qualitative research field. Leavy (2018b) points to a similar discourse in the research community concerning arts-based research (ABR), and whether ABR is a research paradigm or a methodological field within the qualitative paradigm. She has come to understand ABR as a paradigm (Leavy 2018a, p. 4). There are several equally valid terms existing to describe different artistic forms of research (Leavy 2018a, p. 5), and Leavy applies arts-based research to categorise these research activities. The diversity of terms covering various research methodologies based in or inspired by the arts can be seen as a challenge (Rasmussen and Gjærum 2012). Referring to previous books by herself and McNiff (2018), Leavy writes: “ABR is a transdisciplinary approach to knowledge building that combines the tenets of the creative arts in research context” (Leavy 2018a, p. 4). ABR is methodological tools used by researchers across the disciplines during any or all phases of research, problem generation, data or content generation, analysis, interpretation and representation. “These tools adapt the tenets of creative arts in order to address research questions holistically” (Leavy 2018a, p. 4). “Epistemologically, ABR assumes the arts can create and convey meaning (Barone and Eisner 2012). ABR is based on aesthetic knowing” (Leavy 2018a, p. 5). The philosophy ABR is grounded in stems from creative arts therapy, art therapy and a paradigm called “aesthetic intersubjective paradigm” (Leavy 2018a, pp. 5–6; Malchiodi 2018; McNiff 2018). ABR philosophy is also influenced by philosophical understandings of “the body”, especially embodiment theory and phenomenology (Leavy 2018a, pp. 5–6). McNiff makes the image of ABR and psychology as two dance partners: “ABR contributes to a more reciprocal partnership, complementing the use of psychology to study art with the use of art to study psychology” (McNiff 2018, p. 23). He highlights that within ABR, art leads in the dance. McNiff experienced a paradigm conflict between psychiatric theories and methods, and the arts, and highlights how this paradigm conflict “underscores how perceptions of reality are shaped by particular conceptual frameworks and methods of inquiry, including ABR” (McNiff 2018, p. 25). Following McNiff, who argues that the logical extension of this dynamic is; “the recognition of different ways of perceiving and examining experience, and encouraging them to complement each other in creative ways” (McNiff 2018, p. 25), how to examine experience through the ABR methodology performative inquiry inspired by poetic inquiry, in combination with qualitative research methodology, will be the focus for the last part of the article.
Example of examining experience through ABR methodology
The research question central for the exemplified material from the pilot study is: How can participants’ descriptions of self-identified significant moments and experiences from a psychodrama group be examined with a combination of ABR and qualitative research methodology?
The parts concerning the ABR methodology performative inquiry (Fels 2012) will be the main focus in the presentation of the example. In the research project, also qualitative research will be central for collecting empirical data through individual interviews, field notes, and seen holistically together with empirical data collected with ABR methodology. By initiating responses from the participants’ experiences from their self-identified important moments of participation through a poem or a drawing, the research outputs and claims to knowledge concerning the participants’ experiences can be created and presented in a more visual, expressive, and performative way. Poetic inquiry attempts to express human experiences more authentically, helps in highlighting slippery identity negotiation processes and to demonstrate embodiment (Faulkner 2018, p. 210). Faulkner adopts the term “poetic inquiry” from Prendergast (2009) and writes that poetic inquiry is;
(…) the use of poetry crafted from research endavors, either before a project analysis, as a project analysis, and/or poetry that is a part of or that constitutes an entire research project. The key feature of poetic inquiry is the use of poetry as/in/for inquiry; poetic inquiry is both a method and product of research activity. (Faulkner 2018, p. 210)
Inspirations from poetic inquiry is applied together with performative inquiry. In art therapy, the images can be regarded as a bridge between the internal world and the external world (Peterson 2003, p. 81). The drawing together with interview transcripts, fieldwork and poems, might serve as a way of bridging the internal experience world to the external world. Symbolic, visual data can be found in the drawing and embodied data in the poem (Faulkner 2018, p. 210).
Performative inquiry—embodied data in the stop moments
Inspired by Fels (2012) and the stop moments in performative inquiry, the events and the moments that appear in the participants’ descriptions of significant moments from the psychodrama group, can be understood as such stop moments. A performative inquiry does not provide a method or steps to follow, but rather “offers researchers and educators a way of inquiring into what matters as we engage in drama or theatre activities, or indeed any creative process or activity that is an action site of inquiry” (Fels 2012, p. 52). Performative inquiry can reflect on the stops in our everyday lives or in drama activity, “in terms of how we perform and are performed by our environment, our roles, our contexts, our relationships with others and the ‘scripts’ that we create” (Fels 2012, p. 51). Exploring what those stop moments reveal and listening to the embodied data that calls us to attention is making a performative inquiry. By diving into these stop moments, and descriptions of the participants self-identified significant moments from the psychodrama event the dimensions concerning the perception and embodiment in these moments can be visualised and discussed. Fels writes that performative inquiry requires of its practitioners four key things: “to listen deeply, to be present in the moment, to identify stops that interrupt or illuminate our practice or understanding, and to reflect on those stops, in terms of their significance, implications, and why they matter” (Fels 2012, p. 53). Fels has based her term stop moment from a philosopher’s concept of the stop: “A stop according to Appelbaum (1995), is a moment of risk, a moment of opportunity” (Fels 2012, p. 53). The stop makes us stop, be awakened to the moment, and have an internal dialogue with ourselves. “A stop tugs on our sleeve, and says, listen, there is another way to engage, to respond, to interact” (Fels 2012, p. 53). During the action phase in psychodrama, this might happen in the role as the protagonist, auxiliary ego or as a group member. The significant events the participants report immediately after the psychodrama group in the poem or the drawing, then turns in to a performative expression of the stop moment, and accessible for inquiry. In the action site of inquiry in the psychodrama, and often in the psychodramatic technique role reversal, there is a possibility to see from a different perspective which might lead to new understandings (P.F. Kellermann 1992, p. 86). In the site of action, stop moments can appear, and in the stop is embodied data (Fels 2012, p. 54). Putting the spotlight on these stops make them into a lense of inquiry.
The spotlight on the stop moment of the participant
The making of a drawing and a poem of an essential event relating to the participants’ experience from the psychodrama group, is a way to inscribe and visualise a stop moment in a performative expression for the participant. In the drawing of an essential moment of participation, participating as the auxiliary ego in another participants psychodrama, became central in the drawing of one participant from the pilot study. The drawing showed how Sarah (fictional name) sat on a blue silk carpet, representing the snow, outside the house of the Protagonist (P), acting the P as a child. How Sarah’s own perceptual experiences from her personal story are actualised and become vivid through the staging of another participants story in the psychodrama is made visible here. This moment is expressed both in the drawing and poem of Sarah. In the poem (translated from Norwegian) Sarah wrote;
In the middle of your story was my story
Close by the scared and lonely child in you
Was the scared and lonely child in me
A tear had room for both
I was not gone
I became less alone in my feelings
—that was what I came here for
(Written by a participant in a psychodrama group)
From this poem a description of Sarah’s subjective experience is unfolded, and the poem conveys embodied data concerning Sarah’s perceptual and personal history. Sarah is engaged in the moment as auxiliary ego in the P’s psychodrama. Sarah listens with her senses to what is being moved in the action phase in the psychodrama scene, and she is being personally moved.
Performative inquiry and qualitative research methods
Performative inquiry can be applied in combination with other qualitative methods, such as qualitative individual semi-structured interview (Kvale and Brinkmann 2015), field notes, sound and/or video recordings of the moments identified by the participants. In this way “thick descriptions” (Denzin and Lincoln 2008, p. 24), can be constructed to gain a holistically picture and answer to the research questions. In the individual interview, the immediate performative expression of subjective experience expressed through a poem and a drawing can be applied dialectically as an impulse into questioning on essential experiences and why these moments mattered for the participants. The dialectics between the poem and drawing, which identifies significant moments from the psychodrama group, and the individual interview might, in this way, position the participant as a co-researcher in the research project. Through the different empirical data parts collected and co-created with the participants, it could be said that I’m working as a bricolage or quiltmaker (Denzin and Lincoln 2008, p. 5). Through this an image of subjective experiences from participation in psychodrama can be constructed consisting of poems, drawings, interview transcripts, transcripts from the sound or video to better understand the complexity and meaning of the subjective experiences of the participants from the psychodrama group. The descriptions of how embodied aspects appeared for the participants in connection with reflections on why these events mattered and appeared in their meaning-making processes can be highlighted and discussed.
Interpretations of this bricolage of empirical material might be pursued through a thinking with theory, where the data is viewed across various theoretical perspectives (Jackson and Mazzei 2012). In addition to Sauter (2000), Foucault and his theory on power and knowledge (Foucault et al. 2001; Foucault and Gordon 1980) might be a relevant theoretical perspective which by thinking with power/knowledge could illuminate how power relations in the psychodrama practice might influence the subjectivity and subjective experiences.
Merleau-Ponty’s concept of the chiasm (Merleau-Ponty 1968) is another theoretical perspective that can be applied for a theoretical reading and thinking with theory of the stop moment identified by Sarah. The chiasm is a concept which demonstrates the ontological continuity between body and world. Merleau-Ponty describes the body as a “chiasm” or crossing in this concept. About the relationship between the visible and invisible, between the sensible and the sense and how looking palpates visible things, or touch palpates the tangible Merleau-Ponty writes:
This can happen only if my hand, while it is felt from within, is also accessible from without, itself tangible, for my other hand, for example, if it takes its place among the things it touches, is in a sense one of them, opens finally upon a tangible being of which it is also a part. Through this crisscrossing within it of the touching and the tangible, its own movements incorporate themselves into the universe they interrogate, are recorded on the same map as it; the two systems are applied upon one another, as the two halves of an orange. (Merleau-Ponty 1968, p. 133)
“The intertwining of sensible and sensing is best exhibited in the reversibility of the human body, such as when one hand touches another” (Toadvine 2009, p. 107). Interpreted with the concept of the chiasm, what being created in the moment of participation in the psychodrama, also touches into Sarah’s perceptual history. The essence of the chiasm is that you cannot touch another person’s hand without yourself being touched back, and in this event described by Sarah in the drawing and the poem, this is actualized through how parts of her personal story become vivid and present injunction with the story of the P. Merleau-Ponty writes that the body can be compared to an art work, because the body is a junction of living meanings (Merleau-Ponty 1994, p. 109). Embodied knowledge and perceptions regarding how it, at times, felt to be a child are put to the fore in the stop moment identified by the participant. In Sarah’s case the feeling of being alone and loneliness, turns vivid in the role as the auxiliary ego. In the second part of the poem it can be interpreted that being a part of the psychodrama group gave her a community feeling regarding her own feelings, which was soothing in some way. This could have been explored further on by asking Sarah to describe why this event was an essential event for her, and the interview transcript of this response could then be one part of the bricolage of the subjective experience of Sarah. When embodied learning, fragments of perceptual history is put into play and made vivid like this through moments of participation in the psychodrama, it demands a psychodramatist managing the different expected professional roles (P. F. Kellermann 1992, p. 46).
Advantages and disadvantages
The participants have more options than written or verbal text for expressing their experiences in an approach combining ABR with qualitative methods, which is an advantage. The dialectics between the performative expression in the drawing and the poem, with the written text from a questionnaire and verbal text in the interview, might illuminate more dimensions of the significant events identified by the participants. In this way, the complexity of human experience might be described in a holistic and subjective way. These dimensions and aspects might potentially not appear if solely written or verbal text was applied to collect and express empirical data. Also, advantages of an ABR approach is that it might forge micro and macro connections between the individual lives of the participants and the broader contexts in which they live their lives and “make connections and interconnections of the processes that are otherwise out of reach” (Leavy 2018a, p. 9). A disadvantage is that the ABR approach, combined with qualitative methods exemplified here, is less applicable for proving the effect of psychodrama interventions. This might lead to challenges on argumenting for the relevance of the study. The purpose of the research project is not to point to causalities or prove effect, but to create thick descriptions of the experiential dimensions of some participants from a psychodrama session, and to contribute with critical perspectives. Another disadvantage is that the approach could create a picture of psychodrama purely as a method that generates positive experiences. This might give the impression of psychodrama solely as a healing agent or a panacea, and this is a disadvantage. ABR methodology, here exemplified with performative inquiry inspired by poetic inquiry, opens up for a wide array of subjectivity and positive descriptions. This could be seen in line with what Gjærum found as a tendency in applied theatre research Gjærum (2014), that it was hard to find researchers who use negative terms in their research. In my impression, this also exist in psychodrama research. By focusing on the participants’ self-identified significant moments from the psychodrama group, the critical dimensions and reflections towards this action method are potentially left out. Therefore, the overall research design for the Ph.D.-project would also include an approach where the dramaturgical strategies in the psychodrama will be emphasized in order to give a more nuanced picture of the moments of participation in the psychodrama method. The purpose is that this will contribute with a more balanced knowledge on how the performative actions in the psychodrama works (both in positive and negative wordings), and also point to critical dimension concerning ethical issues and power relations.