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Why Arts-Based Research?

Abstract

The term ‘arts-based research’ encompasses a range of different methods of inquiry for interpretation, meaning-making, and representation of lived experiences. The approach involves the use of any art form, at any point in the research process, to generate, interpret, or communicate new knowledge. In this chapter, I outline what arts-based methods are and their value to social science research. I provide key examples to highlight the range of possibilities afforded by arts-based research in refugee studies. This diversity can be at the source of resistance to recognise the legitimacy of arts-based approaches and their potential as new ways of knowing.

Keywords

  • Knowledge co-production
  • Artistic practices
  • Collaborative research
  • Counter-narratives
  • Agency
  • Visual ethnography

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Fig. 2.1

(courtesy of Prof. Katherine Boydell)

Fig. 2.2

(courtesy of Ms. Jennifer Leahy, Silversalt Photography)

Fig. 2.3

(available at https://whoareweproject.com/artists/isabellima)

Fig. 2.4

(courtesy of Ms. Jennifer Leahy, Silversalt Photography)

Fig. 2.5

(available at http://www.darcyalexandra.com/practice/living-in-direct-provision-9-stories)

Notes

  1. 1.

    The Handbook of the Arts in Qualitative Research edited by Knowles and Cole (2008), and the Handbook of Arts-Based Research by Leavy (2019) offer comprehensive outlines of methods, genres and methodologies in arts-based research. Kara (2015) has pointed out that it is difficult to provide a definitive account of all methods as the field of creative research changes at a very fast rate.

  2. 2.

    A new method that warrants attention in research is the use of immersive or virtual reality (VR) as an effective tool to convey lived realities by depicting the immediacy of situations to wider audiences irrespective of location. According to Valérie Gorin from University of Geneva (personal communication, November 2017), the use of VR in forced migration constitutes a ‘reactivation of old storytelling strategies’ inherent to human communication to change the way we look at migration. Recent examples include VR companies collaborating with non-government agencies and news media companies to produce powerful stories about forced migration. Examples of projects using a 360 degree immersive environment are UNICEF’s Clouds over Sidra, filmed in the Zaatari camp (Jordan), the Red Cross’ Four Walls, and Médecins Sans Frontières’ Forced from Home. The media is also adopting an ‘immersive journalism’ approach to this topic (see New York Time’s The Displaced or BBC’s We Wait).

  3. 3.

    See videos at https://walkingborders.com/.

  4. 4.

    This is an international collaboration with Associate Professor Marusya Bociurkiw, Ryerson University, Canada, and Associate Professor Elena Marchevska, London South Bank University, UK. The project is funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Development grant, and explores migration and homemaking strategies in three sites (Toronto, Sydney, and London).

  5. 5.

    From the beginning of my academic career, I was determined that my writing would have ‘soul’, and that I would privilege Knowledge Holders’ narratives and storytelling elements in academic writing. In doing so, I experienced some resistance or rejection, but not always.

  6. 6.

    See https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/art-during-holocaust.

  7. 7.

    See also the Arts and Social Change project website: https://www.icasc.ca/.

  8. 8.

    See www.platforma.org.uk/isabel-lima-gresham-wooden-horse.

  9. 9.

    See https://garlandmag.com/article/creating-sanctuary-through-beading/.

  10. 10.

    See http://www.darcyalexandra.com/practice/living-in-direct-provision-9-stories/.

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Lenette, C. (2019). Why Arts-Based Research?. In: Arts-Based Methods in Refugee Research. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-8008-2_2

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