Skip to main content

Transformative Storywork: Creative Pathways for Social Change

Abstract

There is no one way that oppression is experienced in people’s lives, and there are also many pathways to undoing exclusion. Understanding the relationships between the lived experiences of exclusion and the possibilities for change requires careful attention. In response, this chapter sets out the case for transformative storywork as an approach that can contribute to social change. Transformative storywork is a complex and multimodal process which operates on an emotional, creative level. It uses storytelling as a form of inquiry, including the exploration of the self and of daily experiences in connection with life history and social context. Through personal and collective creative expression, transformative storywork builds opportunities to challenge unequal relations of power in our own lives and the lives of others. Creative storytelling can both humanize and politicize learning processes by building new and collective possibilities for social change. This chapter sets out the principles, elements, and practices of transformative storywork. We argue that creative expression through crafting personal stories, within a group-based process, enables a deeper understanding of our lives and, importantly, ourselves in relation to others. This relational learning enables reflection on our own stories and experiences. Building from these story processes, further deconstruction of the power relations within different life stories builds an understanding of the structural injustices that affect people’s shared realities. Our analysis is that this relational understanding of structural inequality, built through multimodal creative methods founded in the personal narrative, can support transformative learning and solidarity in shared struggles for social change. This change was not only witnessed but was also experienced both personally and politically by the authors, and the paper will outline reflexive learnings within these processes to communicate for social change. The chapter draws on examples of previous and ongoing work, including in South Africa.

Keywords

  • Creative methods; Storytelling; Intersectionality; Social justice; Emancipatory; Visual; Listening; Transformative storywork

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Bate P (2004) The role of stories and storytelling in Organisational change efforts: a field study of an emerging “community of practice” within the UK National Health Service. In: Hurwitz B, Greenhalgh T, Skultans V (eds) Narrative research in health and illness. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Malden

    Google Scholar 

  • Bell L (2010) Storytelling for social justice: connecting narrative and the arts in antiracist teaching. In: Routledge. New York/London

    Google Scholar 

  • Black G, Derakhshani N, Liedeman R, Wheeler J, Members of the Delft Safety Group (2016) What we live with everyday is not right. Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation, Cape Town

    Google Scholar 

  • Boal A (2008) Theatre of the oppressed, 3rd edn. Pluto Press, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Brushwood Rose C, Granger CA (2013) Unexpected self-expression and the limits of narrative inquiry: exploring unconscious dynamics in a community-based digital storytelling workshop. Int J Qual Stud Educ 26(2):216–237

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Clover D, Stalker J (eds) (2007) The arts and social justice: re-crafting adult education and community cultural leadership. National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, Leicester

    Google Scholar 

  • Crenshaw K (1989) Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: a black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. Chicago Legal Forum 140:139–617

    Google Scholar 

  • Crossley ML (2000) Narrative psychology, trauma and the study of self/identity. Theor Psychol 10(4):527–546

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Edwards R, Mauthner M (2012) Ethics and feminist research: theory and practice. In: Miller T, Birch M, Mauthner M, Jessop J (eds) Ethics in qualitative research, 2nd edn. SAGE Publications Ltd, London/California/New Delhi, pp 14–28

    Google Scholar 

  • Fine M (2016) Participatory designs for critical literacies from under the covers. Lit Res Theor Method Pract 65:47–68

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Freire P (1996) Pedagogy of the oppressed. New Revise. Penguin, London/New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Greenwood DJ, Levin M (1998) Introduction to action research: social research for social change. SAGE Publications, Inc, Thousand Oaks

    Google Scholar 

  • Hernandez-Wolfe P, Killian K, Engstrom D, Gangsei D (2015) Vicarious resilience, vicarious trauma, and awareness of equity in trauma work. J Humanist Psychol 55(2):153–172

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Heron J (1996) Co-operative inquiry: research into the human condition. SAGE Publications Ltd, London/California/New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Joseph S (2015) Positive therapy: building bridges between positive psychology and person-centred psychotherapy. Routledge, London/New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Kalmanowitz D, Lloyd B (2005) Epilogue. In: Kalmanowitz D, Lloyd B (eds) Art therapy and political violence: with art, without illusion. Routledge, New York, pp 233–235

    Google Scholar 

  • Lambert J (2013) Digital storytelling: capturing lives, creating community. Routledge, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Lykes MB, Scheib H (2015) The artistry of emancipatory practice: photovoice, creative techniques, and feminist anti-racist participatory action research. In: Bradbury H (ed) The SAGE handbook of action research, 3rd edn. SAGE Publications Ltd, London, pp 131–142

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Madison SD (2005) Introduction to critical ethnography. In: Madison SD (ed) Critical ethnography : method, ethics, and performance. SAGE Publications Ltd, London/California/New Delhi/Singapore, pp 1–16

    Google Scholar 

  • Matthews N, Sunderland N (2017) Digital storytelling in health and social policy. Routledge, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Mills E, Shahrokh T, Wheeler J, Black G, Cornelius R, Van Den Heever L (2015) Turning the tide: the role of collective action for addressing structural and gender-based violence in South Africa. Institute of Development Studies, Brighton

    Google Scholar 

  • Milne E-J, Mitchell C, De Lange N (eds) (2012) The handbook of participatory video. AltaMira Press, Lanham/Toronto/New York/Plymouth

    Google Scholar 

  • Paris D (2011) “A friend who understand fully”: notes on humanizing research in a multiethnic youth community. Int J Qual Stud Educ 24(2):137–149

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Paris D, Winn MT (2014) Humanizing research: decolonizing qualitative inquiry with youth and communities. SAGE Publications Ltd, London/California/New Delhi

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Pink S (2004) Applied visual anthropology social intervention, visual methodologies and anthropology theory. Vis Anthropol Rev 20(1):3–16

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Poletti A (2011) Coaxing an intimate public: life narrative in digital storytelling. Continuum: J Media Cult Stud 25(1):73–83

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Reavey P (2011) Visual methods in psychology: using and interpreting images in qualitative research. Psychology Press, East Sussex

    Google Scholar 

  • Sandercock L (2003) Out of the closet: the importance of stories and storytelling in planning practice. Plann Theor Pract 4(1):11–28

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Shahrokh T, Wheeler J (eds) (2014a) Knowledge from the margins: an anthology from a global network on participatory practice and policy influence. Institute of Development Studies, Brighton

    Google Scholar 

  • Shahrokh T, Wheeler J (2014b) Agency and citizenship in a context of gender-based violence, IDS evidence report 73. Institute of Development Studies, Brighton

    Google Scholar 

  • Trees A, Kellas JK (2009) Telling Tales: enacting family relationships in joint storytelling about difficult family experiences. West J Commun 73(1):91–111

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ward L, Gahagan B (2010) Crossing the divide between theory and practice: research and an ethic of care. Ethics Soc Welf 4(2):210–216

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Wheeler J (2009) The life that we don’t want’: using participatory video in researching violence. IDS Bull 40(3):10–18

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Wheeler J (2011) Seeing like a citizen: participatory video and action research for citizen action. In: Shah N, Jansen F (eds) Digital (alter)natives with a cause? Book 2 – To think. Centre for the Internet and Society and Hivos Knowledge Programme, Bangalore/The Hague

    Google Scholar 

  • Woodside A, Sood S, Miller K (2008) When consumers and brands talk: storytelling theory and research in psychology and marketing. Psychol Mark 25(2):97–145

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Joanna Wheeler or Thea Shahrokh .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2018 Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.

About this entry

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this entry

Wheeler, J., Shahrokh, T., Derakhshani, N. (2018). Transformative Storywork: Creative Pathways for Social Change. In: Servaes, J. (eds) Handbook of Communication for Development and Social Change. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-7035-8_54-1

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-7035-8_54-1

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Singapore

  • Print ISBN: 978-981-10-7035-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-981-10-7035-8

  • eBook Packages: Springer Reference Literature, Cultural & Media StudiesReference Module Humanities and Social Sciences