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Radical Hope

Methodology: Models of Practice and (Digital) Ethnography:
The work of Hannah Arendt provides theoretical grounding for the study’s methodology. In thinking about story-telling, in our case intercultural storytelling through theatre, Arendt’s (1982) important notion of ‘visiting’ others’ stories, as opposed to simply consuming them, is central. The story, she argued, presses its audience to ‘go visiting;’ the visitor is invited to converse with the perspectives he/she finds, to consider how they are different from his/her own, rather than to simply assimilate them (Gallagher 2011). More importantly, shechallenges us to work in such a way that critical categories are not imposed on, but inspired by, one’s engagement with a phenomenon (see Disch 1994). Thinking beyond traditional concepts – or in our case cultural stereotypes of youth¬¬– is seeing past the categories and formulas that are deeply ingrained in our minds (Arendt, 1979). The socially grounded, grassroots, activist theatre of practitioner and scholar Jan Cohen-Cruz provides a very good practical model of this way of working. She considers ‘the story,’ as told through theatre, the most potentially powerful form of social intervention and way of generating new knowledge through group interaction. From my own experience, the stories created by young people juxtapose both celebration and subjugation in complicated ways, inviting critical engagement from those who witness them. Storytelling through theatre is a powerful way to reach strangers.            

Situating students, teachers, and artists as co-researchers, the research will draw from interviews and the sharing of theatre performances to connect social relations, pedagogy, and civic engagement within and beyond schools. Digital methods in multi-sited ethnography have made possible new imaginings of research, collectively created among different geographic sites and differently positioned researchers (Gallagher and Freeman 2011). The proposed study will illustrate how student participants make meaning through their own theatrical and digital media, becoming active and contributing members of our research collective (Gallagher et al 2013) and use digital media as a platform for civic engagement with distant others. Such a shift from object of study to makers of meaning has the important effect of creating a youth knowledge base across our diverse international sites. It provokes researchers to pay attention to the ways young people construct meaning through digital and dramatic exploration and how they attend tothe creative and critical meanings made by youth unlike themselves. Multiple perspectives in the telling of research is one of the greatest discoveries made possible by the use of digital technologies in the ethnographic field. Digital recording methods, as conceived here, will not only exploit the recording capacities of video, but will also use reflexive research practices (Gallagher and Kim 2008) and audience reception to consider the camera as an artistic research medium.

Research sites:
We are continuing our work with our previous Indian site, a unique site for its focus on drama with marginalized children; we will be in a new city and working with a new collaborator in Taiwan. Adding England and Greece as collaborators will allow us to work with European partners whose youth populations have experienced significant consequences of global economic insecurity most recently. Partners have also been chosen for their particular contributions to models of drama practice.
Year 1: Verbatim Theatre: To begin the study, students across all sites (1 school in Canada, India, Taiwan, England, and Greece) will see the verbatim play (provisionally titled The Teachers) created from the data of my previous SSHRC-funded study by professional playwright and collaborator, Andrew Kushnir. Verbatim theatre is created from word-for-word interviews with real people. The play examines how teaching and learning in a classroom is a reciprocal experience. Beginning with this shared frame of reference across sites is crucial to the digital dialogue (via blogs) that will initially bring the students into contact with one another and orient participants and researchers towards the call for collaboration and interpretation that the study is issuing. Modeled after our collaborator UrvashiSahni’s pedagogy of critical dialogues observed by our team during our site visit to India last year (http://studyhallfoundation.org/prerna-girls), students in each site will subsequently engage in short in-class improvised dramas generated from their viewing of the play; each class discusses what they have seen and what questions were provoked. Following this, the students, teachers, and artists in each of the five sites will produce their own locally generated verbatim theatre piece (Gallagher et al 2012), which they will share with all the other sites in an exchange of virtual performances. The theatre piece will be built from the question, ‘what do you care most about’ (objective 1), derived from verbatim interviews that the youth will do with peers at their own site. The youth from each site will share their theatre pieces digitally (via uploaded video) with the other sites. Through a threaded discussion, students in all sites can ask questions of the work and provide feedback to each other (objective 4). A reflective survey, given live to all students in all sites, will follow the completion of the work and will aim to chart the students’ immediate reflections on the pedagogical model of working (Verbatim) (objective 3). Participant observation  (between 8-12 weeks) and youth focus groups (3 groups of approximately 5 students), 6-8 individual youth interviews, and teacher, and artist interviews conducted by local researchers in each site will take place in year one (objectives 1, 2, 3 and 4). In the spring, all collaborators will meet in Toronto for an initial sharing of data and preliminary co-analysis of the data from the blogs (see Boler 2008) (objective 4).
Year 2:Monologue/Autobiography/Historical Memory work: Students will work with material taken from their own lives to build creative pieces (monologues) to share within and across sites (Gallagher &YamanNtelioglou 2011) (objectives 2 and 3). Blog exchange between students will continue (objective 4). A reflective survey, given live to all students in all sites, will follow the completion of the work and will aim to chart the students’ immediate reflections on this pedagogical model of working (Monologue/Autobiography/Historical Memory) (objective 3) created by our Taiwanese collaborator, Wan-Jung Wang (Wang 2010). Participant observation  (between 8-12 weeks) and youth focus groups (3 groups of approximately 5 students), 6-8 youth individual interviews, and teacher, and artist interviews conducted by local researchers in each site will take place (objectives 1 and 2). A quantitative on-line survey will be initiated in year two based on our findings in year 1 (objectives 1,2,3 and 4). In the spring, the Toronto team (PI and 1 graduate student) will also complete participant observation and approximately10 youth interviews and 1 teacher interview in each of the Indian and Taiwanese sites (objectives 1, 2, 3 and 4).    
Year 3: Devising/Ensemble work: students will use a model of devising theatre, working as an ensemble (Pigkou-Repousi 2012) and using primary sources of material from their lives and from popular culture, to create a collective piece to share across sites, modeled after the pedagogical work of collaborators Neelands and Pigkou-Repousi. Again, the process will be documented by video and shared on blogs (objectives 1,2,3 and 4). Participant observation (between 8-12 weeks) and youth focus groups (3 groups of approximately 5 students), 6-8 youth individual interviews, and teacher, and artist interviews conducted by local researchers in each site will be carried out (objectives 1 and 2). A reflective survey, given live to students in all sites, will follow the completion of the work and will aim to chart the students’ immediate reflections on this pedagogical model of working (Devising/Ensemble) (objective 3). The on-line survey data will be analysed. The Toronto research team (PI and 1 graduate student) will visit the English and Greek sites and complete participant observation and approximately10 youth interviews and 1 teacher interview in each site (objectives 1,2,3 and 4).
Year 4: Collaborative Analysis and Knowledge Mobilization: Year four will involve collaborative analysis and cross-site comparisons (of pedagogical models and ethnographic experiences). Again, the international research team will come together in the fall to present key emergent findings from each site, to engage in co-analysis of the blog data and comparative analysis of interview and participant observation data across sites. Video analysis (using Studiocode software), used analytically throughout the previous three years, will be used for comparative analyses in this final year (objectives 1,2,3, and 4). Editing for digital dissemination of work will take place and audio and video documentaries and live theatre production research outputs will be completed. Co-delivered presentations in and outside academia will culminate in a Digital Theatre Festival, an on-line event of digital theatre performances to be shared with research participants and key stakeholders, featuring the works of the five sites and the research findings.

Significance and Expected Influence: This project is about creating theatre and dialogue with strangers, those in our local classrooms as well as those across cultural, racial, and linguistic divides, to whom we may learn to have some ethical responsibility. Our work with youth will initiate an intercultural creative process and document its unfolding in methodologically innovative ways in order to enrich our empirical understanding of young people’s creative and artistic practices, their care for each other, and their hope for our world. It will also contribute theoretically to a framework for understanding young people’s broader engagement with civic life. The stories to be told from this ethnographic research – using theatrical, popular and scholarly languages – are positioned to uniquely challenge the ubiquitous discourses of problematic, civically disengaged, apathetic youth and irrelevant arts practices. Results from this study will offer critical insight into how youth come to participate in the political, economic, and cultural lives of their local and global communities.     

How the information in this study will be handled: The results of this research will be published in writing (e.g. professional and academic journal articles), and presented at conferences locally and internationally.  Videotaped research activities (interview footage and classroom drama activities, class discussions) may be shown during presentations about the study.  The use of video is primarily for our research purposes. Recording activities by video allows us to code and analyse the drama activities using our video coding software, StudioCode. Interviews that have been audio-recorded will be transcribed and selected quotes may be used in written documents that result from this study.  No information of a personal nature will be shown in video footage that might be shown or in written documents that result from this research.  Interview questions are not invasive of personal privacy but rather will ask you to reflect on the work you are doing in class and other ideas you have about your engagement in your communities. Interview questions will not risk or otherwise jeopardize your academic evaluation.  You will be given advance notice of the kinds of questions that will be asked in interviews. Pseudonyms (fake names) will be used for any identifying information such as names of students and schools, however, despite using pseudonyms, I cannot guarantee anonymity to participants who choose to participate in a video-taped research activity (i.e., individual/group interviews, and classroom activities).  There is also a possible risk that a reader who knows the speaker may recognize him or her through the use of particular characteristic phrases.  At the conclusion of the study, I will arrange to provide feedback to your school as promptly, clearly and openly as possible.  Where possible, your contributions will be archived as a video journal of classroom activities and made available to your school.  

August 2014
Professor Kathleen Gallagher
Canada Research Chair, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V6, Canada
tel: 416 978-0160 / fax: 416 926-4744 / email: kathleen.gallagher@utoronto.ca