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Colouring outside the lines : art, social justice and identity in the classroom Hickey, Lisa D.

Abstract

The art education literature makes ample claims as to the transformative power of art, and thus art education is often lauded as being the ideal space for dealing with identity issues, and enacting social justice (Chalmers, 1996; Stuhr, 1994; Heck, 2001; Gasman & Anderson-Thompkins, 2003; Ulbricht, 2003). Despite these claims, the exact meanings of these powerful terms are unclear. Using poststructural feminist and queer theories, this research study examines how artists working in classroom residencies conceptualize and teach about social justice and identity. This study also focuses on the influence of the artists' identities on how and what they teach in the residency. Through a series of one-on-one interviews, this research uncovers that how the artists see themselves is influential for how they, in turn, conceive of and teach about social justice and identity. Consequently, the definitions of 'social justice' and 'identity' are revealed to be unstable and shifting - varying from artist to artist and situation to situation. Furthermore, by dealing with only certain social justice issues and acknowledging only certain identities in the residency, some norms may be disrupted, while other norms and heteronorms are reinforced and perpetuated. Finally, this study opens up a space for practitioners and researchers in the field to consider how art can be both subversive and oppressive. Art making in no way assures an untainted exploration of social justice and identity issues, and thus must be explored for its harmful nature, as well as its liberatory and disruptive potential.

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