BODY OF WORK

Collective practices that generate collective knowledge for creating inclusive language and movement guide our approach to practice-as-research methodology. It serves as the foundation for activating social justice in artistic education courses and project curation programming. 

Participants who experience our methodology are equipped to use performativity as a strategy to deconstruct and subvert dominant forms of language and movement, which often normalize unjust behavior and exclusionary practices. The purpose is to activate social theory through performance practice and research methodologies, supporting participants in embodying and applying understandings in academic, professional, and everyday life contexts. 

Our approach to practice-as-research requires specialist knowledge, yet we do not position ourselves as experts who hold knowledge that people need. Instead, we facilitate understandings, not prescribe them. We define knowledge as a person’s subjective experience. To support participants in accessing that knowledge of self, we integrate performance-based writing, vocal, and movement activities with autoethnographic research methods. 

Performance is used as a practice because the activity of creating and exchanging roles have the potential to transform perception. We also use performance-based practices as a mode of research, as experimenting with how to adopt different roles requires a structured approach to changing one’s position. In a research context, performance-based practices prepare participants to approach cultural exchange and adaptation non-invasively. There is nothing to lose, e.g. one’s identity or value system if you perform a role. In this context, performance-based practice and research involve testing ways to adopt various positions during cultural exchange in order to collectively shape knowledge with others. This collective knowledge assists in managing transitions, easing tensions that inevitably arise during sharing experiences of self-knowledge one-to-one or in a group.

Self-knowledge is contextualized through analyzing documentation of outcomes from performance-based practices and autoethnographic research methods. Documentation can take various forms, such as scripts, scores, illustrations, audio recordings, or lens-based formats. 

The examples above are from Zoya’s autoethnographic research from Force with Force Chorus. Illustrations by Ladan Tofighi.. 

Participants are invited to research the ways one’s knowledge of self evolves in relation to multiple cultural experiences. To identify and analyze connections across multiple cultural experiences, participants share documentation of outcomes from autoethnographic research as a group, encouraging collaborative practices. 

Collaboration becomes both a practice and form of collective research, prompting participants to question how their knowledge was formed, how it intersects with other people’s experiences, and where it might fit within paradigms of theoretical knowledge. The purpose is to form theory collectively through embodied research; resignifying theory seeks to challenge dominant power structures by integrating personal narratives informed by autoethnographic research. By connecting participants’ phenomenological and bodily experiences of the theory and relating it to their personal experiences, new insights are gained and understandings of cultural nuance are expanded. 

The example above is documentation autoethnographic research. Participants were asked to locate intersections among their peers’ experiences and personal narratives in order to articulate commonalities amongst what is shared socially, culturally, and politically.

Participants are invited to resignify theory about social equality by annotating theoretical lines of thought.

The collaborative process of translating what happens while collectively integrating autoethnographic and theoretical knowledge is a bodily experience where everyone performs shared actions, such as engaging in dialogue or movement sequences. The repetition of translating these performed actions of shared bodily experiences creates embodied collective knowledge. 

Reflecting on how collective processes shift the ways people experience social interaction while participating in our practice-as-research methodology involves transitioning through various registers of understanding—somatic, semantic, theoretical and affective. Cycling through multiple registers of how we understand and communicate experiences enables participants to be more aware of the expansive relational potentiality that exists between people when engaging verbal and nonverbal languages during dialogue.  

Through these collective processes, participants are prepared to experiment with utilizing embodied knowledge to engage performativity as a method. Using the language and movement that has been adapted collectively, participants use performativity to shape and reshape social interaction that cultivates forms of inclusion, belonging, and affirmation. The repetition of practicing these performative methods activates inclusive forms of language and movement that construct new understandings and approaches to connect with and relate to people from multiple cultural backgrounds. With time, this approach to activating performative methods evolves as embodied practices. These embodied practices strengthen participants’ potential to adapt to multicultural and multilingual environments through activating the performativity of inclusive language and movement.

The ability to engage in collective practice is crucial for activating social justice, as it challenges rigid and binary ways of thinking, creating openness for multiple interpretations, and perspectives. When applied in conflict contexts, these embodied practices engaging the performativity of inclusive language and movement draw from the awareness and knowledge of how social interaction reflects varying levels of constructs that have multiple meanings, interpretations, and translations. Within the context of social justice, performative methods are used as a collective practice to deconstruct and thereby challenge implicit biases, stereotypes, and unequal power dynamics that sustain social injustices. 

Since knowledge is inherently plural rather than singular, adopting an embodied approach involves navigating transitions between sharing self-knowledge and shifting one’s position while integrating collective knowledge. This approach forms the foundation of adaptive ethics, creating social conditions where participants can confidently adjust their needs and values with the needs and values among multiple groups of people. We refer to this practice as adaptive ethics, as it lays the groundwork for activating social justice. Shifting one’s positionality to support the needs and values of others while balancing their own requires an adaptive response to constant change.