UNSETTLED embodying transformative learning and intersectionality in higher education: popular theatre as research with international graduate students




Etmanski, Catherine

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This dissertation documents an action-oriented, arts-based doctoral study that used popular theatre to investigate graduate students’ experiences at the University of Victoria (UVic) in Canada. The research question asks, what are the contradictions between the welcoming multicultural discourses of Canada and the experiences of international graduate students? This question is explored with a total of twenty-four graduate students, representing fourteen countries, including Canada, and ten departments across campus. These students participated in pilot work, interviews, focus groups, in-depth theatre workshops, and a public performance entitled, UNSETTLED. The process of creating interactive forum theatre with six graduate students and one student’s infant is outlined in depth, as is performance at UVic on November 8, 2006. The community impact of UNSETTLED and the researcher and actors’ learning-healing experiences are highlighted. The key contributions of this research are practical, theoretical, and methodological. Practically, this research contributes to the ongoing dialogue and concrete efforts around already identified challenges of internationalization. The outcome is an entirely student-driven effort that is unique both in content (due to the graduate student perspective represented) and in form (theatre). Theoretically, this research contributes to the areas of transformative learning and intersectionality. These theoretical insights reposition the ‘international student’ from being a person solely in need of services, to being one of many potential agents of change. An intersectional analysis points to a need to simultaneously address the diverse struggles of other graduate students, staff, administrators, and faculty in increasingly globalized universities and communities. Methodologically, this study expresses the catalytic and dialogical power of the intersection of research with art, education, community development, and activism, contributing to the fields of both arts-based research and action-oriented, participatory research and the places where these overlap.



Popular Theatre, Arts Based Research, Participatory Research, Transformative Learning, Intersectionality, International Students