The Role of Creativity and Storytelling to Address Power Inequalities and Structural Violence

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:18
Oral Presentation
Joanna WHEELER, University of Western Cape, South Africa
Thea SHAHROKH, Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom
Past research shows how creative participatory processes have the potential to support people living with violence, poverty and marginality to reflect on their lives in ways that strengthen their self-confidence and sense of solidarity, and deepen their socio-political understanding of the structural causes of violence. Drawing on past and current research, this paper critically examines the sequencing of creative visual methods in the context of participatory research and policy engagement on gender-based violence and responses to everyday insecurity with community-based activists in Cape Town. It traces a process of methodological layering that starts with telling a personal story through creative group process, and moves through a collective power analysis of these stories to articulate a group narrative. This methodological layering draws on multiple forms of creative expression including drawing, visualisation, photography, film-making, drama, dance, and writing.

The paper analyses how the process of layering multiple forms of creative expression in order to tell personal and collective stories exposes new perspectives at the interface between personal and structural lenses on understanding violence. The paper argues that through layering reflective creative storytelling processes (both personal and collective), differential experiences and responses to violence become more accessible for discussion. This uncovering in turn provokes new questions about the sources of problems, in order to challenge gendered and intersecting power inequalities, such as race and sexuality, that block pathways of transformative change for marginalised men and women. Furthermore, where research enables an inclusive group-building process, it can reveal new capacities for action to respond to the concerns raised.

The insights generated from a critical assessment of this layered methodological approach point to the need to build relational understandings of violence and injustice, grounded in everyday contexts, and on the role for creative story-based methodologies within this.